- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - A new law enforcement policy that will assign a Martinsburg police dog to another handler has sparked a protest.

Melonie Phelps was joined by others as she led a rally Monday for her husband, police Sgt. Craig Phelps, to keep Argos, the department’s canine drug dog, The Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1qPDsDA ).

She said she is devastated knowing Argos will be going to another handler.

“It’s unbearable not knowing who he’s going to be with,” Melonie Phelps said. “He’s part of the family. We’re the only family he knows.”

In a statement released Saturday, Martinsburg police said that supervisors will no longer be assigned as canine handlers. The policy takes effect May 1.

Police Chief Maury Richards said a review found that supervisors 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,” Richards said.

The canine handler position will be offered to patrolmen, who will complete a two-week training period with the dog before beginning their assignment around mid-May.

Melonie Phelps said she wants to see Argos retired so that he could stay with their family, but Richards said the canine is a valuable asset who has at least five more years left in his working career. The chief added that dogs are usually retired at the end of their careers.

“We realize that it is an important issue to people, and there are strong feelings out in the community,” he said. “But it will not affect our policy. We have high expectations for both positions and two people have to do those jobs.”


Information from: The Journal, https://journal-news.net/

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