Houston bans 'unreliable' field drug test kits

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Over and over again, faulty field drug test kits have landed innocent people in jail.

The test kits are used by law enforcement all over the country to detect illegal drugs and make drug arrests. But FOX 13's year-long investigation showed many are unreliable.

Everyday household items like over-the-counter medication, chocolate, and even coffee tested positive for drugs.

Now, the Houston Police Department has made a bold move. Chief Art Acevedo has decided to stop using field drug test kits all together.

"It's not only a decision that I made but that we all made, collectively, as a region," Chief Acevedo said.

The decision came down to a lethal drug called fentanyl. It's a synthetic drug and can be toxic in tiny doses when touched or inhaled.

LINK: Man jailed after field drug test mistakes drywall dust for cocaine

The chief says he won't put his officers or first responders at risk. From now on, officers will use their own expertise to make drug arrests.

"We've never relied solely on the kits because we recognize, over the years, that the kits do provide false negatives and false positives. It happens on both ends of the spectrum," said Acevedo.

FOX 13 asked Chief Acevedo if he believed field test kits are unreliable.

"I think they've proven to be unreliable," said Acevedo.

A high number of drug-related cases around the country end in plea bargains without a confirmation test.

Now, the Harris County District Attorneys Office requires every positive test to be confirmed in a crime lab before allowing a guilty plea. The chief says it's a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform.

When asked if he thinks banning the test kits will catch on, he said, "I believe so. I think because of the public safety aspect of this, the officers' safety aspect of this, the first responders' aspect of this, and the fact that we now have a drug on the street that is as bad as they come," explained Chief Acevedo.