- Apr 23
Martinsburg Police Department Announces New Canine Policy
Martinsburg Police Chief Maury Richards today announced a new police canine policy “that will both improve the quality of police supervision and also allow us to utilize the full potential of our canine to more effectively fight heroin in our community.” Under the new department policy, supervisors will no longer be assigned as canine handlers. MPD will keep its canine but the assignment will now only be offered to patrolmen. The policy will become effective on May 1, 2016.
“High quality supervision is absolutely essential to the future of the Martinsburg Police Department,” Richards stated. “When you look across the country at almost every instance either of police misconduct or serious mistakes, many times, the cause of the problem can be traced back to inadequate supervision,” Richards said. The Martinsburg Chief observed that in these incidents, “sometimes there were too few supervisors, sometimes they were poorly trained, and sometimes they were spread too thin by trying to do multiple jobs at the same time. In Martinsburg we’re moving in a new direction to ensure those mistakes don’t happen here. Our supervisors will be engaged, focused, and effective.”
In assessing the effectiveness of MPD’s canine program, Richards concluded that a supervisor couldn’t perform both tasks effectively. “Martinsburg needs excellent police supervisors and an excellent canine handler—but the same person just can’t do both jobs well.” Chief Richards said that looking at the heroin seizure activity from MPD’s drug-trained canine during the past year tells the story. “We’re fighting one of the worst heroin crises in the country and need to utilize our drug-trained dog as an effective asset, but after almost a year’s work our canine recovered less than one gram of heroin. We need to do better and we will do better.”
Richards further explained the need for the new policy stating that, “an effective police supervisor’s primary function has to be to give a 100% effort to lead, train, guide, and direct other police officers to accomplish the mission of the department. An effective canine handler has to give a 100% effort to utilize the canine proactively whenever possible; assisting other officers, engaging with the community, and going after drug dealers. Having an officer who is a supervisor but also managing the duties of a canine handler is an inefficient use of police resources that the citizens of Martinsburg simply can’t afford.”
Applications are now being accepted for MPD patrolmen interested in the assignment. The new department policy states that “canine handler candidates will be assessed in multiple areas including: police experience; work record and performance; levels of personal motivation and positive Department morale; mature judgment; decision-making skills; work ethic; willingness to engage in proactive drug enforcement and interdiction; level of interest in engaging with schools, youth, and community residents; willingness to learn; and the ability to function effectively as a team member.”
The selection and announcement of MPD’s new canine handler will be made by May 1st. He or she will immediately enter and complete a challenging two week training course along with their new canine partner and both will hit the streets of our community by the middle of May.