Dear Representative Owens,
I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to advise you of our support for H.R. 8458, the “Protecting Against Toxic Radiation Originating in (Clandestine) Laboratories (PATROL) Act.”
Law enforcement officers face dangerous situations every day and some of those dangers are environmental hazards like toxic fumes and substances in clandestine drug laboratories. These facilities produce a variety of illicit drugs—fentanyl, amphetamines, methamphetamines, PCP, and many others. When identified and discovered, these facilities must be dismantled, and the officers and other public safety officers who do this may be exposed to environmental hazards.
As drug trafficking has increased, the establishment of such facilities has expanded. Law enforcement officers have become more adept at identifying and shutting down these clandestine operations and now regularly use personal protective equipment to reduce incidents of exposure—but that was not always the case. Police officers like Trenton Halladay of the Provo Police Department were assigned to a special task force responsible for busting these drug labs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These officers were provided with little to no protection.
Officer Halladay’s exposure to hazardous materials in these clandestine labs killed him. He was diagnosed with a sudden onset of cancer at the age of 37 and died six months later. His line of duty death, which was only recently recognized as such, should be treated no differently than any other hazard an officer would face that causes injury. Your bill would make clear that public safety officers, who were killed or disabled due to radiation or other hazardous exposure while responding to a clandestine lab, are considered to have been in the line of duty. The legislation directs the U.S. Attorney General to clarify that such exposure is included in the definition of injury, allowing injured officers or surviving family members who lose their loved ones are eligible for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits death or disability program.
On behalf of the more than 364,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, we thank you for your leadership on this important issue. If I can provide any additional information about this issue or Officer Halladay, please do not hesitate to contact me or Executive Director Jim Pasco in our Washington, D.C. office.