WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This is a copy of Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous’ notes regarding a recent K-9 internal investigation:
• On November 1st, we began an investigation into an incident involving one of our K9s and a K9 Officer. The matter was turned over to the SBI who after a lengthy investigation brought the case before the Grand Jury.
• On December 9th a New Hanover County Grand Jury convened and rendered a decision that the K9 officer’s actions were not criminal. We have supported that decision.
• On December 11th we started our own internal investigations into the incident to determine if any policies, procedures or matters of employee conduct were in question. After numerous interviews and hundreds of investigative hours we have now concluded our internal investigation and have taken appropriate action.
Officer Stafford Brister remains an active member of the Wilmington Police Department. He will remain assigned to the Patrol Services Bureau as a Patrol Officer. His date to return to work has not been determined at this time.
State personnel laws preclude me from releasing any additional personnel information therefore I will not discuss the internal investigation.
These investigations are never easy. They impact the agency, they affect our relationship with the community and they challenge the public’s trust. I am mindful and sensitive to the concerns of our community. No one can forget the troubling visions of canine attacks during the Civil Rights Movement. I am also mindful of the pressure and strain these incidents bring to our officers and their families. However, I am committed to conducting thorough investigations and will take the appropriate action when necessary.
Now the question is where do we go from here?
There are three parts to this incident:
• The first was the SBI investigation that was called for by me and District Attorney Ben David. That inquiry has addressed any potential criminal conduct.
• The second investigation was the internal investigation conducted by the Department to review any potential policy violations or training issues. We have now concluded that investigation.
• The third is a Department of Justice Investigation which is completely separate from ours. Any inquiries into that investigation must be directed to the FBI.
Our agency is in full cooperation with the FBI and will assist in any way necessary to bring this matter to a close.
I want to personally thank my command staff and our Internal Affairs Unit. These individuals have spent countless hours conducting this investigation and for that we are grateful.
Whenever an incident happens and especially when investigations are conducted it’s important for us as leaders to take an in-depth look into our practices, procedures, policies and training. It’s important for us to ask productive questions that will help us to become better at what we do. With that in mind we are evaluating our K9 program. We are currently working to bring in a United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) expert to review our current K9 practices. This individual will work closely with our K9 unit and provide any observations and recommendations to me for consideration. These recommendations will be made public.
The K9 unit will continue to respond to calls, assist with searches, make public appearances and assist as they have always done. The K9 unit is an important part of our law enforcement family.
From 2012 -2013 our K9 unit:
• Seized more than $200,000 in cash
• Seized more than 11,000 bindles of heroin
• Recovered several handguns
• Each of our canines are Certified through the USPCA
We are proud of the canines in our force and appreciate the service they render to our community.
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