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Richmond Heights Police Department taking different approach to K9 officers

The newest member of the Richmond Heights Police department was sworn in Thursday. K9 Angel is trained to bring calm to tense situations.

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — When you think of a police canine, you probably don’t picture a dog you want to play or mess around with. It’s typically all business, all the time. 

But in Richmond Heights, the police department took a much different approach to their new canine hire.

The dog they wanted was one that could bring a sense of calm to a situation – a community support dog of sorts. That’s what they found in Angel, the newest member of the Richmond Heights Police Department, who was sworn in on Thursday.

“Not only is she beautiful, she’s just a very kind dog,” said Lt. Denise DeBiase who will be Angel’s handler and caregiver at home.

Angel is just 6 months old and has already gone through training for her new job. She’s playful and as loving as you can ask for a dog to be. Those qualities making her perfect for her new role.

“When you see a police dog, your first that thought is I’m going to be afraid of that police dog. This sort of changes things,” said DiBiase.

Credit: Brandon Simmons

Angel isn’t trained to attack or bite suspects. Instead, she’s trained to deescalate – interacting with those who are depressed or anxious, even those who are victims of crimes. Her training will also continue so she can be used in search and rescue.

“She’s basically a lab or a snickerdoodle in a German Shepherds body,” said Richard Seyler, who trained Angel before handing her over to the Richmond Heights Police Department Thursday morning. “We have a dog that has been socialized and trained to do K9 work. What we don’t do is the bite work, we don’t do the aggression work.”

Those traits are Angel’s natural temperament and has been enhanced and honed for police work.

Seyler added that Angel "can utilize that to break the conversation. And for victims, it’s physically impossible to be happy and sad at the same time. So, if petting a dog makes you happy, you can’t be upset.”

Today, Angel already made her first visit to the city’s elementary school to meet the principal, with a meet and greet with students coming at a later date. Angel will also be visible at community events and working day to day with residents who need her.

“If we have victims of a crime and I’m available, then of course I’d like to bring the dog,” said DiBiase. “Because dogs do calm people down. Their very affective at calming people. It is a community support animal. That’s how we’re going to look at it.”

If you’d like to meet Angel, she’ll be at her first community event the weekend – the Richmond Heights Fall Fun Fest. She’s looking forward to making new friends.

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