A cry for help. A barricaded subject. A stolen vehicle recovery with a short pursuit. Complicated investigations. Uncooperative inmates. Extensive and detailed public records requests. That’s what members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office handled over the course of several days. That’s not uncommon in law enforcement, though. In fact, it’s what CCSO’s members face almost daily.
The call to serve doesn’t come without its mental and physical toll – and that’s something Sheriff Michelle Cook understands. That’s why she arranged for the agency’s newest addition: a gray Labradoodle named JP. “A member who is healthy both mentally and physically gives better customer service,” Cook explained, “Studies have shown the beneficial impact of dogs with our military. It made sense that this positive impact would be seen in law enforcement.”
As a ‘station dog’ JP, which stands for Justice Patrol, has the ability to visit where he chooses at all of the agency’s buildings. At night, he stays with the agency’s dispatchers or jail staff – who are there 24/7. Leashes are stationed at each entrance for walks on breaks. “Adding a station dog is an easy way to address member mental well-being,” Cook said, “In the short time he’s been with us, we’ve already seen a positive impact in our agency.”
K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to disabled American veterans. The organization arranged for JP’s donation and initial care. “K9s For Warriors is committed to helping our country’s heroes recover from the wounds of war,” said K9s For Warriors Chief of Staff and General Counsel Patricia Dodson, “While our mission remains the same, we recognize the daily trauma our first responders also face. It became clear that K9s For Warriors can serve not only our military heroes who have protected us abroad but also our law enforcement and first responder community who protect us here at home.”
JP is now one of several dogs donated to northeast Florida agencies. “The goal of this partnership and those with other police stations is to assist in the placement of a station dog to help address and mitigate some of the idiosyncratic stress factors common to the work environment of dispatch operators, first responders, and police officers,” Dodson said, “In times of increasing pressure, looking after the well-being of staﬀ has never been more paramount. In addition, these station dogs are excellent community ambassadors because of their well-mannered nature.”
Experts say dogs like JP, who is well-behaved and trained, help people cope with stress and traumatic experiences. They also help lower anxiety and provide mental and emotional wellness benefits. In fact, it’s been shown dogs can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost mood. “Even on bad days, I hope JP will remind our members why they chose to serve,” Cook said.
The calls for service will never stop coming. The caseload will never be zero. Inmates will always fill the jail. The toll the job takes will always be there. But what can change is the way law enforcement agencies can take care of their members – and JP is a four-legged part of that.