WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol Police force went through a lot of trauma last year, including an insurrection and the death of three officers, including one suicide. To help recover, the force brought in a emotional support dog, trained to sooth the nerves of a stressed police force.
Capitol Police officers gathered Tuesday around Lila, a Labrador dog, and an official member of their force.
"The way that she just gets people to open up and relax is pretty awesome because who doesn’t love a dog?" said USCP's Dmitri Louis.
Officer Jeff Albanese leads the Capitol Police Force’s emotional support efforts.
"Especially with guys here that might be dealing with stress, either stress after the aftermath of some of the big significant events that we’ve been through or just the day to day grind," Albanese said. "You know, work and family. Lila is the one person who can come up to you and you don’t really need to say anything, because she's just there."
Lila's story is one of second chances. Lila was trained as a seeing eye dog in California. But she would get too distracted at times.
WUSA9 connected a California group starting its emotional support dog training program for police forces around the country with Capitol Police.
"The list of officers who were not just in incredible depression, but as a result of that committing suicide, and that was something that really resonated with both Coby and I," said California private investigator Luis Bolanos.
Lila’s trainer was retired California Sheriff’s Captain Coby Webb.
"We really want to have healthy officers and personnel out there," Webb said. "So then, of course, we have good decision making."
Officer Louis regularly walks the Capitol grounds, stopping to let officers have some time with Lila.
"She just brings a calm," Albanese said. "Sometimes you need that calm to figure out the next step."
Since Lila, she’s been joined by on the force by another dog: Leo.
Twenty-eight other police departments around the country now have emotional support dogs from the California group.
"If a department first responder does not have the ability to come up with the funds for these dogs, that we will help them achieve that," said Bolanos.
Police department employees interesting in securing a support canine at no cost can contact coordinator Luis Bolanos at 760-799-1937 or at Getbitinv@gmail.com.