WILKES-BARRE — The city has located trainers for its K9 units and will send two officers and their dogs to the Philadelphia area Thursday for a session.
City Administrator Ted Wampole said the trainers are associated with the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s back to square one,” Wampole said of the latest development in the attempt to have the K9s reactivated after months of being out of service.
Mayor Tony George ordered that the dogs be evaluated before returning to duty. The dogs, both Belgian Malinois, joined the force in 2016 and were purchased through donations and fundraisers by the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch Coalition.
In early January, the mayor took one of the dogs, Chase, out of service for public safety reasons after it bit an officer during an arrest. That was the third bite by that dog. That same month, a settlement in a pending arbitration between the city and the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, the union representing rank-and-file officers, directed that the other dog, Skoty, be transferred to a different officer.
The officer who first worked with Skoty, Kevin Novackowski, has hired a private attorney to challenge the reassignment of the dog to Officer Daniel Roper. Novackowski’s online statements about his attempt to have Skoty retired to him are now the focus of an internal investigation by the city. Wampole said that investigation is ongoing and declined further comment on the personnel matter.
Roper and Officer Joseph Homza, who works with Chase, were scheduled for a session May 18 at Anderson K9 Training in Yardley. But the mayor said it was scrapped.
“The trainer in Philadelphia backed out,” George said.
Asa Anderson III said difficulty coordinating schedules with the officers and their dogs forced him to cancel. “We just couldn’t come to an agreement,” Anderson said.
Last year, scheduling conflicts forced trainer Paul Price of the North East Police K-9 Academy LLC in Wilkes-Barre Township to resign from working with the city.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.