A new member has joined the Surrey Police Service, this one of the furry variety, to help officers dealing with stress on the job.
Ragnar, a service dog, and his handler Sgt. Kaleigh Paddon will work in partnership with a psychologist to bring officers resources in an ongoing effort to integrate wellness within police services.
Paddon and Ragnar underwent extensive training to be able to provide their services to SPS. Ragnar himself graduated today (July 27) from VICD Service Dogs in order to be deployed as SPS’s Operational Stress Injury dog.
“A lot of what we do is have officers come in if they’re seeking help or they’re struggling so (Ragnar) really helps with breaking down that barrier and making people comfortable in starting that conversation about mental health,” Paddon explained.
“We do peer support training, we respond to those critical incidents, those big deals, we also do smaller defusing or de-briefings or things like group sessions with our psychologist and (Ragnar) comes to all of it. He goes everywhere we go.”
During his more than 20 years of experience as a police officer, Ian MacDonald, SPS media liaison, said mental health initiatives were often an afterthought.
“So usually after some tragic incident, they’d say, ‘You know what we could really use is maybe a psychologist to check in with us and maybe we can build some wellness support,’ but it’s a little bit like trying to put the water back in the pool after it’s spilled out already,” MacDonald said.
“If you don’t take care of your people, it’s going to not just impact your agency, but it’s going to impact the type of service delivery. Citizens are not going to be well-served by a work force that’s depleted, injured, off-sick and suffering, really.”
Ragnar has already proven his popularity with officers, his and Paddon’s office being the one visited most, she said.