Saanich police’s latest recruit to be sworn in has four legs, a tail and just might be the most emotionally intelligent member on the force.
Beacon, a two-year-old black lab, hasn’t been on the job for very long, but he’s already providing the department’s Vernon Avenue headquarters with a major morale boost.
“As soon as you see and pet him, and he gives you a few kisses, you can’t help but feel more positive than the moment before you saw him,” Saanich police Chief Dean Duthie said at a news conference Wednesday (Jan. 25) morning.
Not your typical police canine, Beacon is an operational stress intervention dog – trained not only to sense anxiety in staff but, tail wagging, comfort victims of crime during distressing interviews.
He’s also the first operational stress intervention dog working on Vancouver Island.
Beacon was donated to the department by Wounded Warriors Canada in partnership with Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs (VICD), a division of BC Guide Dogs, said police.
Wounded Warriors Canada helps first responders, veterans and others with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Dogs like Beacon can be helpful after stressful situations, which can make life particularly difficult for police officers.
“We’ve placed other operational stress intervention dogs with other services nationally, so we’ve seen the ability of these dogs to release pressure and anxiety,” Scott Maxwell, Wounded Warriors Canada executive director, told the Saanich News. “It does a lot of impactful, little things all the time, but particularly after critical incidents occur.”
The detachment’s new assistant comes as Saanich police officers are still reeling from trauma endured during the June 2022 bank robbery at the BMO Bank of Montreal branch on Shelbourne Street.
Gunshot wounds sustained during the chaotic shootout hospitalized six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, including three from the Saanich Police Department. All officers survived, but five still remain off duty as a result of what happened that day.
Beacon will work with the department as long as he’s healthy and able to do his job, said Duthie.
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