The Canton Police Force is welcoming their newest deputy, a five-month-old Golden Lab, named Leo. He will act as the department's very own community service dog, or "feel-good dog" as Capt. Andrew Schiffer calls it.
“He puts a smile on everybody's face,” Schiffer said. “Just being around him, he makes the officers a little bit happier every day.” Officer Jonathan Phelps volunteered to take Leo in as a long-term foster.
“There's been people in our lobby that, you know, might be having a rough day,” Schiffer said. “But just seeing Leo when he comes up, he can change people's moods.” While most police dogs work in tracking or detection, Leo is there to boost morale and build connections.
The program can help citizens see another side of policing, and cross over from seeing police officers not just as law enforcers, but rather service officers who can help them, Schiffer said.
"And if an officer has somebody like Leo with them, we've seen it work where people are just like, 'I can take a breath. Things are going to be better.' So that's an important thing," he said.
“Because people who might otherwise not talk to an officer who's in uniform, just walking through a shopping plaza or something, if they got this little guy and he's doing his wiggle worm stuff, then you're like, ‘Oh, who is this little fella?’” Schiffer said. “And because he is so friendly, it gives the officers a chance to meet citizens.”
Despite only being in the station for a few months, Leo has already made a huge impact! "He sets off the shift on a good tone," he said, adding that even just Leo's presence was a stress reducer.
Once Leo completes his formal training, they plan to take him to schools to promote positive interactions between the police and students. The department hopes to raise about $45,000 in donations to fund Leo’s position for the first three years, Schiffer said. “We're gonna rely on, and hope that the community members do feel the same way that we do,” Schiffer said.
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