Handheld device helps detect illegal drugs, BSO deputies say

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward Sheriff’s Office has four new devices to detect illegal substances such as heroin, fentanyl, and meth while on the field.

The MX908 handheld devices are meant to provide chemical and biomolecular analysis. These also have Bluetooth capability to quickly export reports.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said during a news conference on Tuesday that the device will not only assist with detection but it will also help to keep deputies safe.

“You are probably familiar with the severity in terms of how lethal fentanyl is whether it’s breathed, touched, or transmitted in some form in the field,” Tony said.

Since November, BSO has been using one of the devices to screen mail at the Broward County jail and the other three are on the field with deputies and fire rescue personnel.

David Scharf, the director of community programs for BSO, said that once the device alerts to an illegal substance, there is “an official analysis” in the crime lab.

“So far, this machine hasn’t lied to us,” Scharf said.

BSO used a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant through The Florida Department of Health in Broward County to buy the devices.

The device, which can also be used to detect explosives and chemical and biological weapons, has made it to the hands of federal agents and other law enforcement personnel all over the country.

Earlier this year, the Boston-based 908 Devices, founded in 2012, received a $25 million order of MX908 devices from the U.S. Army.

In Florida, only BSO and Pinellas County deputies have had access to it.

In Broward, a group of deputies and fire rescue personnel participated in a two-day training in November, according to Gerdy St. Louis, a spokeswoman for BSO.

Tony and Scharf said the aim for BSO is to use the device to deal with the impact of the ongoing opioid epidemic.

About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.