WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After a car chase ended with a police dog biting and hurting a suspect last fall, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous promised an outside review of his K-9 unit. WPD released that 21-page review today, and says it’s already implementing the recommendations.
But issues in the K-9 unit are nothing new, according to a 2004 Police Executive Research Forum evaluation of WPD. Lack of training was one of the biggest issues in the 2004 evaluation. In the K-9 report released Friday, lack of training was also a problem among others.
So what happened?
“Obviously someone dropped the ball,” Evangelous said. “Prior to that, things were running really well prior to that. And we did implement those recommendations, and it was a failure of individuals within that whole structure to allow that to kind of revert back to where they were. I assure you now that that won’t happen again.”
But who dropped the ball?
“Well I guess you could say I dropped the ball,” Evangelous said. “But you know what? I had some people there who obviously were incompetent and weren’t taking care of business. That has been addressed. They will not be involved in that any longer.”
But issues were not just in the K-9 unit.
In 2004, officers said morale was lower than most could ever recall due to feeling underpaid, underappreciated and subjected to unjustified pettiness.
A decade later, officers again said morale was low. In a survey last fall, WPD employees cited problems with pay, communication and unfairness as the biggest reasons for the unhappiness.
“We have over 330-40 individuals in this department,” the chief said, “and you are going to have some people who aren’t happy in any organization, and I understand that, but it is a state of mind.”
A state of mind 85 percent of officers surveyed last fall shared.
Evangelous says he talks openly with his officers all the time.
“You would be amazed what my officers tell me when I meet with them one on one. They tell who the people are. They tell me what’s going on,” he said.
He says the department has been working over the years to increase pay, improve equipment and facilities, and create a new promotion process.