Pastor Bill Van Nostran repeats the phrase "When you’re a carpenter, everything looks like a hammer," in reference to how law enforcement responds to the unhoused. A police dog reminds me that police are inclined to reach for hammers, in so doing, miss a better tool.

Many times I've turned toward a person in some agitated, violent or crisis state. For example, I saw a tall man screaming walk into the Bridgewater Bistro's kitchen door, then come out shortly still screaming at the winds. I turned toward him, hoping to calm him; not from any ability of mine, but through the natural affection of my dog, "Newt." Very shortly the man was calmly petting my Newt.

And one Sunday above the empty parking lot of the Urgent Care, a woman was screaming at the world. So I set my bike aside. Newt led the way down the steps. When the police arrived, the woman was quietly holding Newt, and spoke in a casual manner.

I don't know how many times Newt calmed someone with me, or off on his own. He's with my brother now, but I've his son, "Harpo," who has a great bundle of love to ease troubled souls. A person like Newt or Harpo can serve to de-escalate so many situations.

Police dogs can be so much more than a hammer or an odor detector. They could be a companion to the police and the policed, a better bridge between us.



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