The Dangers of Police Contact with Fentanyl in the Field: Perceived Risks and Realities

Toxicologists have determined that it is nearly impossible to overdose from touching fentanyl. Research shows officers perceive acute hazards in responding to fentanyl-involved incidents. This panel will provide the information necessary for officers to understand the risk more accurately. Data from the 2021 Law Enforcement Drug Response Survey will show concerns about fentanyl exposure among police, how many agencies have purchased specialized protective equipment, and the extent of officers reporting fentanyl exposure. Next, the toxicology behind why dermal fentanyl exposure is extremely unlikely to cause overdose will be explained. The panel will show how this misinformation was propagated and why a brief training module holds promise for reducing unfounded concerns about fentanyl risk.

Hope M. Smiley-McDonald, Ph.D.

Program Director

RTI-International, Center for Policing Research & Investigative Sciences

Hope Smiley-McDonald directs the Investigative Sciences Program, which conducts research, collects data, and provides training and technical assistance on the application and social impacts of science for law enforcement, forensic, and public health practitioners. Dr. Smiley-McDonald’s research areas include health, social, and justice issues in the context of substance use, and she has published in the areas of drug surveillance; inmate mortality and health; and women and substance use. She has examined case processing, investigative efficiencies, and infrastructure needs across the forensic and medicolegal death investigator communities. She has employed both quantitative and qualitative methods in her research and has designed studies; developed survey instruments; directed large national data collections targeting forensic, law enforcement, and correctional agencies; analyzed data; and disseminated findings in criminological, forensic, and public health outlets. Dr. Smiley-McDonald earned her doctorate and masters in sociology at the University of Kentucky and her bachelor’s degree in public policy studies from Duke University.

Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, Ph.D., F-ABFT

Senior Director

RTI International, Center for Forensic Sciences

Dr. Jeri Ropero-Miller is a Principal Scientist within RTI International’s Applied Justice Research Division. With expertise and board certified in the discipline of forensic toxicology, she has published nationally and internationally on topics of postmortem drug studies, emerging drug threats, hair drug studies, drug surveillance and intelligence, policy and practice research, and technology evaluation and adoption. She received her doctorate in Clinical Chemistry and Forensic Toxicology from the University of Florida College of Medicine. She currently serves on the Board of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists, the editorial boards of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology and Forensic Science International- Synergy, and the National Institute of Science and Technology’s OSAC Forensic Sciences Standards Board. Dr. Ropero-Miller is the Past President (2021-2022) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and Past Secretary of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology.

Brandon del Pozo, Ph.D., MPA, MA

Postdoctoral Fellow

Miriam Hospital/Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University


Workshop Recording
Recorded 10/29/2022
Recorded 10/29/2022