SECAUCUS, NJ — The Secaucus Police Department announced Friday it has launched a first-of-its-kind therapy dog program, where a therapy dog — not a certified police K9 — will be used to enhance community relations.
Meet Oakley, a golden retriever. Don’t expect Oakley to sniff out drugs, locate a bomb or take down a suspect. But he will comfort a child whose home police have been called to for domestic violence. He will cheer up senior citizens who live in Secaucus’ many senior homes.
And he will greet the public at street fairs and other community events in town.
It was Police Officer Taylor Ensmann who first came up with the idea to use Oakley as part of his regular patrol duties. Oakley is personally owned by Ensmann.
He is not a trained police K9, but rather a certified therapy dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people, often in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries or disaster areas.
Oakley will accompany Ensmann during his normal patrol duties and will be used at public events, such as street fairs, concerts, parks and the newly implemented “park and walk” detail. This is where Secaucus police officers have been parking their cars and walking around Plaza Center to engage with businesses. It’s something the department started doing in May.
Additionally, Oakley will be used to provide emotional support when police follow up with victims of traumatic events such as domestic violence, house fires or even a witness to a violent crime, especially if that witness is a child.
Ensmann and Oakley will be visiting local senior citizen housing facilities and the VA Clinic on Meadowlands Parkway. Additionally, Oakley will be used to provide comfort when family members are grieving over the death of a close family member.
Therapy dogs are used in police departments in California, Ohio and Massachusetts, but this is the first known use of a therapy dog in a New Jersey police department, said Secaucus Police Chief Dennis Miller.
“When I was sworn in as chief of police I vowed to enhance community relations and I hold true to that vow,” said Chief Miller.
“Adding a canine to our force is something I have dreamed about for a long time,” said Secaucus Mayor Mike Gonnelli. “Make sure you say hello when you see Oakley!”