A good boy with a big duty: ASU Police welcomes its first emotional support dog

Dutch, an English labrador, is 4 months old and ready to be trained for the police force

The ASU Police Department has welcomed a new member who is short, furry with four legs and a very good boy.

The 4-month-old English Labrador, Dutch, is the first ASU PD K-9 officer with the duty to emotionally support crime victims and help detectives in the special victims unit, which investigate cases involving traumatic crimes. Dutch, who comes from the West Valley, was chosen for the job based on his personality and behavior.

ASU PD Sgt. Jason Latella, Dutch's handler, said any dog from any breed can be a trauma dog, but the department chose a labrador because "even people who don't like dogs tend to like labs and they aren't high energy working dogs."

Latella said about a year ago, he and his commander sat down to talk about the interviews some detectives do with victims. After getting in contact with the chiefs of police departments in the Valley, Latella learned that trauma dogs are a successful and useful tool for victims opening up to the police.

In addition to ASU PD, Tempe police , Scottsdale police, Maricopa County Attorney Office and Phoenix police all have trauma dogs, he said. 

"We noticed people were forthcoming to report a crime, but not always open to talking so we looked at different ways people can open up to us more and an emotional support dog was one of them," Latella said.

ASU PD Chief Michael Thompson said the department is extremely excited to provide this service to its community members.

“Going through a traumatic experience or having anxiety about a situation can be difficult to deal with and hard to talk about," he said. "We hope that Dutch will be able to put people’s minds at ease and help them manage the fears and emotions they may be experiencing."

Dutch's name was chosen by the department to honor former ASU PD officer James "Dutch" Lister, who died of a heart attack while on duty in December 2010. 

Thompson said he worked with Lister before he died and remembers him for the way he treated people with dignity and respect.

Latella said Dutch will not be working in the field until he is fully trained, which will be in about eight more months, and once Dutch is 6 months old he can begin trauma dog training.

"The poor guy needs a break," said ASU PD spokesperson Brenda Carrasco. "He's only four months old and he's still a baby and gets tired."

Although the puppy wasn't available for comment, Latella said there is a lot in store for Dutch's training, adding that the K-9 frequently walks around the ASU campus so he can get used to being around other people. Dutch will also visit retirement homes and other settings.

"Dutch has the perfect temperament because he would rather cuddle with you than play," Latella said.

With this new addition to its department, ASU PD said they plan rely more on emotional support dogs to assist with its duties. While they do not know if they will get any more dogs, but will use the experience with Dutch as a way to test the waters.

"This is not a fad, it's a direction the police force is going in," Latella said.


Reach the reporter at mdhunte2@asu.edu or follow @masaihuntertv on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.