Wilmington Police to spend thousands to evaluate K-9 unit

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Police Department will spend nearly $10,000 as it evaluates its canine program. Chief Ralph Evangelous promised the review earlier this year after an internal investigation into K9 officer Stafford Brister and his use of his dog on a chase suspect last fall.

WPD is bringing in an outside consultant and a WPD retiree, who the department says has expert credentials.

The department has contracted Dr. David J. Ferland, a retired police chief from Portsmouth, NH, as its consultant. Ferland has more than 15 years experience handling police canines. He worked as the Head Canine Trainer for the New Hampshire Police Canine Academy for 10 years and trained more than 110 dogs for police service. He is a nationally certified trainer and judge of police dogs.

Dr. Ferland will conduct a site visit at the end of this month to continue his evaluation the agency’s current canine program. Dr. Ferland is scheduled to submit a report at the end of his visit. The city will pay Ferland $7,700. This fee includes all expenses and follow-up consultation.

Former Wilmington Police Capt. Bruce Hickman, who once served as interim chief in 2004, will return to the department in a part-time position. Capt. Hickman, who retired from WPD in 2009, founded the agency’s canine program in 1982. He is also the founder of the United States Police Canine Association Region 2 Chapter, where he served for more than six years as president. Hickman has been hired as a temporary employee effective March 3. He will work up to 19 hours per week at $21 per hour. WPD says he will be updating policies and procedures.

In late January, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous announced plans to review the canine unit.

“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 at a Jan. 30 news conferenece. “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 at the time the review will provide recommendations that will be shared with the public. Evangelous said the evaluation would determine if the department has the right number of dogs.

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