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Somerville police to swear in new K-9 officer they hope will help spread ‘pawsitivity’

K-9 Marco is the Somerville police’s therapy dog.

Naomi Yané

Jun 13, 2024, 12:41 AM

Updated 32 days ago

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The Somerville Police Department will be swearing in its newest officer in just a few days. K-9 Marco is the Somerville police’s therapy dog.
The almost 5-month-old pup is the newest addition to the department, and like his Instagram says, he’s here to spread “pawsitivity” in the community and to his fellow officers.
Marco's partner Officer Nikki DeBiase says, "I recognize that we get increasing stress amongst the officers. Even the community members all face challenges. If I can provide a safe space for people to come and see him and he could provide them comfort, then we did our job. It addresses mental health in a proactive way for the officers and our community members."
A recent study found that over 1,200 members of law enforcement in the country died by suicide over a seven-year period.
Passaic County Sherriff Richard Berdnik took his own life earlier this year. In the wake of that tragedy, state officials have put an emphasis on mental health resources for first responders in New Jersey.
In Somerville, they hope to reduce those stark numbers with the therapy dog. Mental health professional John Mopper, of Blueprint Mental Health, says the dog can reduce stress officers tend to have from disassociating from their feelings to do their job.
"What happens with a lot of first responders, is they get so used to disassociating from those feelings that they almost can’t access those feelings when they want to later on down the road. Having a program like this, having Marco available, I really think bridges that gap and it really opens up an avenue for the officers to talk about how they feel and in turn would help reduce those numbers of suicide,” Mopper says.
Marco still has a little more training to go but Officer DeBiase says she already sees the joy Marco brings to the community and she sees a difference in her fellow officers.
"The guys might not say it to me, but I can see it. I have officers who are big and strong and very professional and they’re rolling around on the ground with Marco. So I know he’s doing his job and I know that my path, our path together is working,” DeBiase says.
Marco will officially be sworn in on Monday as a Somerville police K-9 officer - badge and all.


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