MPD Implements New Police-Canine Handler Policy

  • MPD Implements New Police-Canine Handler Policy

    MPD Implements New Police-Canine Handler Policy

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced today that its new policy establishing that MPD supervisors will no longer also serve as canine handlers will go into effect as scheduled on May 1, 2016. Craig Phelps, the Department’s current canine handler, will continue in the assignment after notifying Police Chief Maury Richards that he was voluntarily resigning his rank of Sergeant and requesting to revert to the rank of Patrolman in order to become compliant with the policy.

    “I am pleased to announce that Patrolman Craig Phelps will be continuing to work as a partner with MPD’s canine, Argos. The Martinsburg Police Department is fighting drugs. Martinsburg families are fighting drugs. Our improved handler policy will finally allow us the opportunity to utilize our Department’s canine and his handler to their full potential to serve our entire community,” Richards announced.

    The policy change was announced on April 22nd, at which time the Department opened up the application process for officers only the rank of Patrolman who were interested in the assignment to handle Argos, MPD’s drug-trained canine. By submitting his resignation from Sergeant and returning to the rank of Patrolman before the application deadline, Phelps became eligible for consideration among other potential candidates.

    The policy change came after Richards, who has been Martinsburg’s Chief since October 2015, evaluated the effectiveness of the current canine policy that allowed a supervisor to also hold the canine handler assignment. Chief Richards’ assessment concluded that fulfilling the challenging demands of a Sergeant’s duties on a daily basis did not allow the supervisor, who was working with his canine partner, enough time to also function as an effective canine handler. The fact that MPD’s canine had recovered extremely small amounts of illegal drugs since being drug certified last June was an important factor influencing the policy change. Martinsburg is fighting what has been described as a “heroin epidemic.”

    Patrolman Craig Phelps expressed his support of the new policy. “It was a big decision to resign from Sergeant and go back to Patrolman and it was the best thing to do for my family; my canine, Argos; and the Department,” stated the 16 year MPD veteran. This change will give Argos and me the time to really focus on our job, for the good of us all,” Phelps stated.