It’s two paws forward for Saanich Police.
The police detachment is welcoming its newest member, an Operational Stress Intervention dog that’s not only trained to sense anxiety in staff but, wagging tail and all, comfort victims of crime during in-person interviews.
“His impact on the organization and the people that work here has been tremendous,” said Saanich Police Chief Constable Dean Duthie in an interview with CHEK News.
The two-year-old black lab named Beacon was donated to Saanich Police by Wounded Warriors Canada in partnership with Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs (VICD), a division of BC Guide Dogs.
Beacon underwent 16 weeks of advanced training in Qualicum Beach, then spent eight additional weeks training with his primary and secondary handlers at the Saanich Police Department.
“Beacon is trained to sense anxiety and will comfort our staff during debriefings of critical incidents and better support victims of crime and survivors of sexualized offences during interviews in a trauma-informed manner,” police said.
The new-found furry friend comes as Saanich Police officers still reel from trauma endured during June 2022’s attempted bank robbery at the Bank of Montreal on Shelbourne Street, which sent six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team including three from Saanich Police Department to hospital with gunshot wounds.
All officers survived, however five of them remain off-duty from the events of that day.
“The operational stress management that Beacon offers was talked about prior to June 28, 2o22, and it was an idea that we were looking into but I can tell you since the BMO incident this was made a high priority,” added Duthie.
“We live and work in an environment that has a lot of stresses and he just kind of brings in a cloud of calmness when you see him and you get a few minutes of joy with him,” said Corey Volk with Saanich Police.
According to BC Guide Dogs, trauma in the workplace often leaves first responders and Veterans with deep scars that make life challenging, if not impossible.
Usually, the canines are matched with a family.
“VICD matches recipients with a service dog that meets all of the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) standards and has specific additional traits that demonstrate suitability for the work,” BC Guide Dogs said on its website.
“Together they embark on a unique 52-Week Healthy Community Living Program that helps transition the recipient back into their communities, providing them with renewed purpose, confidence and unconditional support.”
Beacon is the first operational stress intervention dog on the Island, with one other in Surrey and five in Ontario.