City of Highland Park To Welcome First Community Service & Wellness Dog
Specially-trained dog will support the Police Department’s community engagement & crisis intervention initiatives
February 8, 2022 – The City of Highland Park is excited to welcome the newest member of the Highland Park Police Department: a highly-trained walker hound! The “pawfficer” will serve in a critical capacity as the Police Department’s first community service and wellness dog, assisting with emergency response where appropriate and bringing comfort and support to individuals in need who reach out to the Police Department for help. Although the dog’s service will primarily focus on situations where he can reduce stress and fear in individuals who have been victims of a crime or other emergency situation, he’ll also be out and about in the community, stopping by schools and community events.
The dog’s first assignment will be to choose his own name, with students at North Shore School District 112 schools and Highland Park High School invited to brainstorm names and nominate one choice per school. Community members are invited to submit a name and then vote on a shortlist at cityhpil.com. Suggestions from the general public will be accepted through February 20, 2022, and voting for the community’s choice will be available from February 22 – February 28. The name options will be presented to the dog next to plates of treats, and the dog will choose a treat and a name before beginning his training with Highland Park officers.
The dog’s training is provided free of charge through the Paws & Stripes College, a program of the Brevard County (FL) Sheriff’s Office. The program represents a second chance for both the dogs, who are all shelter rescues, and carefully selected and trained county jail inmates, who serve as trainers. The trainers work hard to train dogs in voice commands, hand signals, and other obedience skills, in addition to advanced training to serve as a therapy dog to victims and individuals in crisis. In March, two Highland Park officers will receive hands-on training with the City’s new dog before he comes home.
“We are thrilled to bring our first community resource K9 to Highland Park,” said Chief of Police Lou Jogmen. “As a department, we are committed to implementing innovative ways to serve our community and enhance our ability to respond compassionately to crises and stressful situations. Our new community service dog will provide critical emotional support to individuals in need and accompany our officers in their visits around the community, engaging with residents of all ages.”
Ongoing community engagement to build relationships with residents and businesses is one of the City’s primary public safety objectives. The principles of community policing are central to the Police Department’s 2022-2024 strategic plan. The addition of a community service dog will augment the Police Department’s mental health and crisis intervention response toolkit, which includes mental health first aid training for all officers, and crisis intervention training for all officers upon completion of two years’ of service. Additionally, in 2021 the Police Department attained One Mind Community certification, recognizing the Department’s implementation of best practices in officer training, policy administration, and community engagement to best respond to situations where mental illness may be a complicating factor.
More information about the City’s new community service and wellness dog, including community naming information, is available at cityhpil.com/pawfficer. Information about the Police Department’s strategic plan and ongoing commitment to providing respectful and responsive service to individuals in crisis is available at cityhpil.com/police.