WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Police say the officer who unleashed his K-9 on a man in November will return to work, but in a different job.
Ofc. Stafford Brister is clear to come back to work, but he will be working as a patrol officer.
Chief Ralph Evangelous says the incident has also prompted the department to take a closer look at its K-9 unit.
After a more than month-long internal investigation, Ofc. Brister will return to work within the next couple of days, Evangelous said. WPD put Brister on administrative leave as it investigated the use of his K-9 Kaas on a suspect who led police on a chase Halloween night.
Moving forward WPD plans to bring in an expert from the United States Police Canine Association to make sure the unit is working up to standards.
“We think bringing in someone from outside the region that knows no one will be able to give us an honest objective look,” Evangelous said. “I think that’s important for the community to know that we are using best practices, and if we’re not, we’ll fix it.”
Evangelous said the review will provide recommendations that will be shared with the public. The chief says once he selects someone to come in and evaluate the program, it will take about 45 days to complete and cost a few thousand dollars.
WPD’s K-9 unit is made up of five dogs, including the one involved in this incident. Evangelous says the evaluation will determine if that is the right number for the department to have. At that time, Evangelous says a decision will be made about whether to return Kaas to duty. In the meantime the dog is with another handler. Evangelous said he has been told Kaas is doing well.
The SBI investigated the Brister’s use of his dog on suspect Johnnie Williams Nov. 1. The case was taken before a grand jury, which declined to indict Brister.