POLICE Magazine

OCT 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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26 POLICE OCTOBER 2018 than watch the hotel burn down," he says. Several years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Gordon recalls meeting a first re- sponder who had been there. "He brought up the dogs and said he remembered meeting them, and that it was a pleasant, happy experience," he says. "Years later, he can remember that one positive thing that happened there. He adds, "at's kind of how the dogs help. Yes, you have gone through some- thing bad, but the dogs are like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds on a dark and stormy day. It's a small beau- tiful moment. en, the clouds roll back in and the storm returns, but you still re- member the ray of sunshine. at's what we're trying to bring to these situations that are dark and full of anxiety." MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE ere's more to a comfort dog than meets the eye, however. Gordon explains that although comfort dogs are not targeting criminals and investigating crimes, they do play an important role, and as such, "The dog helps victims feel more at ease while speaking about their situation." —Lt. William Gordon, Greenfield (MA) Police Department GENERAL USES FOR COMFORT DOGS Greenfield (MA) Police Department's policy spells out the following uses for comfort dogs. 1. Aid in the investigation where there is a child victim of abuse a) Prior to a forensic interview the comfort dog team may meet with the child victim/witness in the lobby or waiting area of the building where the child will be interviewed to reduce anxiety while the interviewer prepares for the interview. The comfort dog handler also can engage the child in conversa- tion, which will help the child feel more comfortable talking to an unfamiliar adult. This interaction will also help the handler assess the child's develop- mental capabilities prior to the interview. b) Forensic interview aid of a child victim, at the interviewer's discretion. This option is available if the child becomes extremely upset while away from their parent(s). If the comfort dog is used in the interview, the handler is to only perform the duties of handling the comfort dog and allow the interview- er to engage in communication with the child. 2. Trial testimony of a child victim/witness. Like the procedures for forensic interviews and prosecutor deployments, the comfort dog team may be used in the waiting area prior to testimony. If the preceding judge allows the comfort dog team to be deployed, the comfort dog handler will not engage in communicating with the child and only per- forms the necessary handler duties. 3. Critical Incident Mental Health Support The comfort dog team can help bridge the gap between a traumatic event and the connection to mental health supports. A compassionate presence leveraging the human-canine bond helping restore a person's emotional and cognitive equilibrium. The first contact with an impacted individual is impor- tant. If managed in a respectful and compassionate way, it can help establish an effective helping relationship and increase the person's receptiveness to further help. 4. Critical incident stress management The comfort dog team is authorized to aid the Western Massachusetts Critical Incident Stress Management (WMCISM) team with debriefing or diffusing first responders that were involved in a traumatic event within the WMCISM response area as requested. 5. School Support The comfort dog team may be utilized to assist school officials during time of mental health crisis, bereavement counseling, or any other appropriate request from the local school districts. 6. Community Relations Requests for demonstrations or visits will be routed to the administrative lieutenant. All requests will be made far enough in advance to ensure that a comfort dog team will be available. Source: Greenfield (MA) Police Department Comfort Dog Policy PHOTOS: GREENFIELD (MA) PD this program requires the right dog, the right handler, the right training, and the right policy. e first step is finding the right dog. ough many dog breeds are well suited to comforting others, Saint Bernards top Gordon's list of possibilities. He explains they are calm, large, and lumbersome. "ey have a sad face that just seems to look at someone and understand what they are going through," he says. at's not to say other breeds won't work, he adds. e top qualification of a comfort K-9 is loving people. A dog that voluntarily approaches strangers, makes eye contact, and welcomes attention is a good choice as opposed to one that shies away from attention. Being physically and emotionally calm is also a consideration. A super-excitable K-9 that jumps up on people and wiggles a CANINES BRING COMFORT TO VICTIMS

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