SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Schenectady Police Department introduced the newest member of their team. Meet Cooper the therapy dog, whose first day was Wednesday.

The program is the second of its kind in the Capital Region after the Albany Police Department began its therapy dog program in 2019. With Cooper, the department hopes to address growing mental health needs across the city. 

“We’ve seen an increase in calls for service and we’ve seen an increase in the need for individuals that are out in the community that have issues with mental health,” said Schenectady Police Department Chief Eric Clifford.

Ellen Sax, Vice President for Community Engagement with MVP Health Care, said that there are multiple benefits to having a therapy dog in any situation, and they can act as tools to bridge the gap between law enforcement and community members, especially when responding to traumatic situations. “Everyone needs that moment to just step back after the stress of what they’ve been dealing with,” she said. “We know how important taking that breath is. Behavioral health is such a big issue in our country right now so a dog provides that moment to just care about somebody who is right there by your side.” 

Chief Clifford said that Cooper is also a resource to the police department, helping officers cope with potentially traumatic situations they encounter on the job. “We’re not robots out in the community we’ve actually been asking a lot more of them when they’re out there to not be too robotic,” he said. “When they are on a traumatic scene, it’s going to affect them. So we want officers to be well so that they can serve the community well.”