WILKES-BARRE — The city’s K9 officers and their dogs moved a step closer to returning to service with a scheduled training session next week.
Officer Joseph Homza and Chase, and Officer Paul Roper and Skoty will travel to Anderson K9 Training in Yardley, Bucks County, on May 18.
Mayor Tony George said the training date had to be rescheduled because one of the officers was unable to attend the session originally set for May 4.
The news was welcomed by Sgt. Phil Myers, president of the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association.
“The officers were just notified today they can attend training on the 18th,” Myers said Thursday.
“We just want to get the officers trained and back out on the road where they belong,” Myers added.
The dogs were purchased with donations and fundraising proceeds and joined the force in 2016. But they saw limited duty and have been inactive since early this year. Chase bit three people and the mayor deactivated the animal for public safety reasons. Skoty was reassigned to Officer Roper as a result of a settlement agreement with the PBA.
The dogs, both Belgian Malinois, underwent evaluations and were cleared to return to service.
“The one should go back automatically,” the mayor said referring to Chase. He said he was not certain about Skoty because the dog has not yet worked with Roper.
Still both officers and dogs will attend the training next week, the mayor said.
City Administrator Ted Wampole and Sgt. Myers said they did not know if there were additional sessions scheduled.
New policy procedure
In another development, officers will be able to receive and confirm receipt of policy changes on their smartphones with the PowerDMS software program.
“We’re in the process of getting it now,” the mayor said.
The mayor credited Police Chief Marcella Lendacky with researching and recommending the program that costs $7,600 upfront. He said Lendacky began looking into it prior to the release of a review of the department by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association that concluded the directives system was “in chaos.”
The review said the system in place did not allow for vetting policies before they were issued nor did it purge outdated policies.
Lendacky won’t be around to see the program in use. She plans to retire June 3. The review said she lacked the professional qualifications to be chief, but it did not call for her removal.
The city is in the process of interviewing candidates to replace Lendacky.
The mayor said with the program, officers get policy updates and can confirm that they received and reviewed them.
“Everything’s documented and it keeps upgrading the standards,” the mayor said.
Myers said he was not too familiar with PowerDMS nor was it cleared with the police union.
But based on what he’s heard, “it seems like a good program.”
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.