WILKES-BARRE — The city’s two K9 officers and dogs will return to training with a familiar face.
The unit will soon begin working with North East Police K9 Academy in Wilkes-Barre Township, said city Administrator Ted Wampole.
The city signed a contract this week to use the local trainer to return the unit to active duty, Wampole said Thursday.
“Paul Price is going to do it,” said Wampole. “We’re absolutely thrilled.”
A message left with Price was not immediately returned.
Price had stopped working with the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department last year after expressing his dissatisfaction with a scheduling change that prevented Officer Joseph Homza and Chase, one of the two Belgian Malinois dogs, from attending biweekly sessions.
The dog also had bitten three people, including a police officer, prompting Mayor Tony George to take Chase out of service in January. The mayor directed that Chase, along with fellow K9 Skoty, be evaluated to determine if they were suited to work as police dogs.
The assignment of Skoty to a new officer further complicated the dogs’ return to service. Skoty was reassigned to Officer Daniel Roper from Kevin Novackowski due to a January settlement of an arbitration case arising out of the miscalculation of test scores for the dogs’ handlers.
After unsuccessful attempts to find a trainer and the lack of a written response by an evaluator who looked at the dogs, the city in May turned to the Penn Vet Working Dog Center’s Law Enforcement K9 Training Division in Philadelphia for additional consultation.
Robert T. Dougherty Jr., law enforcement coordinator at the center, sent a letter dated June 5 to the mayor that detailed his findings and recommendations.
“The bottom line up front is the Wilkes-Barre Police Department can have a very successful program with the two K9 handlers and dogs that were observed,” Dougherty said.
Neither dog showed any workability or sociability problems, he noted.
Roper is a new handler and has not worked with Skoty. Before they are placed into “operational status,” it is recommended they “attend a basic K9 handler course approved by the police department which meets accepted police K9 industry minimum standards of training,” Dougherty said. Once that’s done, they should continue with “ongoing maintenance training” and undergo additional narcotics detection training.
As for Homza and Chase, it’s recommended they be re-certified for operational status by the North East Police K9 Academy where the original training took place and attend ongoing maintenance training.
In addition, Dougherty suggested the dogs’ weight should be managed for their health and life expectancy.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.