Detectives Thomas and Piper.
Photo by Dean Moses
They are ready to protect, serve and comfort.
On August 4, NYPD headquarters hosted the graduation ceremony of two ‘legged’ officers who will seek to help with the mental health of law enforcement officials and members of the public.
Piper and Jenny are two Labrador Retrievers who, along with their human partners, Detectives Ronald Thomas and Efrain Hernandez respectively, form the NYPD’s first canine therapy unit. The aim of the new initiative is to provide mental health services to cops in crisis and civilians who have suffered trauma.
The NYPD hopes dogs can reduce the stigma surrounding feelings of post-traumatic stress disorder and even help comfort those with suicidal thoughts after occupational hazards such as gun violence.
The dogs, who have previously proven themselves to be “pupae” with sympathetic colleagues as they waited to receive their shields on Wednesday afternoon, have been specially trained to help comfort and relieve those dealing with sensitive issues. The two-legged and four-legged officers have both undergone rigorous training.
Overseen by Puppies Behind Bars – an organization that employs prisoners to breed service dogs for injured veterans and first responders – the dogs were mentored alongside handlers in prisons with the help of inmates. This not only created a meaningful bond between officers and prisoners during the rehabilitation process, but it also served to effectively prepare the dogs for the job ahead.
“The training has been intense and it comes from someone who has been to the New York City Police Academy. We started at five in the morning and didn’t really get to bed until around 10 at night, ”Detective Thomas told amNewYork Metro. “We hope these dogs bridge the gap between us and the members of the department, I mean the police may be reluctant to come forward and who doesn’t love a Labrador?”
The best cops in the department went out of their way at One Police Plaza to welcome the K-9s to the team. A colored guard presented arms and First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker gave a speech praising their important work taking care of men and women in hairy situations. The ceremony was made even more meaningful since not all of the dogs in the program were able to bite the brass bone. Several police candidates were unsuccessful, which the officers said underscores the duo’s incredible abilities.
As the dogs and their handlers received their shields, officially declaring them detectives, the labs raised their paws in a respectful salute.