BOISE, Idaho — Mental health is a main topic of conversation throughout the pandemic, but for police officers the conversation is often overlooked even though they see some of the worst in our community.
Mental and emotional well-being is important to the Boise Police Department. The department formed a training, education and development division last May. Then in October, they brought in one special recruit unlike the rest to help with the mental health of officers.
“Mental health is an area that for police officers is typically not something that is at the forefront and it’s something that’s historically been essentially, ignored really,” BPD Officer Harrison Maalouf said.
To help, the Boise Police Department had to call for backup — 2-year-old, Clover, the purebred English cream golden retriever.
“When you pet a dog, when you see a dog, they’re running around with their floppy ears smiling and you get to pet them, there's a lot of benefits to that,” Maalouf said.
Clover the Wellness K9 has a unique job with the Boise Police Department.
“As guys and girls come and go during their tours of duty, she typically greets people at the door and as they are writing reports she comes up and noses their arm to get pets and so it's just a mental break for people and kind of a positive thing when you maybe going to some traumatic incidents throughout the day,” Maalouf said.
Officers see some of the worst in the community, which is not easy and can have a huge impact on their overall well-being. Officers in the Boise bike patrol unit researched ways to improve mental health among officers, leading them to clover who officer Harrison Maalouf adopted from the Idaho Humane Society in October.
Maalouf and Officer Mattie Chally were at the humane society after a fellow officer was bitten by a dog. The two noticed an office cat at the humane society named Monroe which made them start thinking about starting something similar at the police department.
“When we saw what they were doing there and started doing our own research into the benefits of animals and what they can do, it just seemed like a no-brainer,” Maalouf said.
Clover’s former owners could no longer care for her and her medical needs, according to Maalouf. She consistently started losing weight and was not treated for a year, and when surrendered to the humane society, she was only 26 pounds fully grown. After doing X-rays, a blockage in her intestines was found and she was able to make a recovery and move on to helping others.
“We have all of these huge societal country-wide issues, things like drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child abuse. And the one thing they all have in common is that police are somehow associated with them at a crisis point and so that’s pretty much what we do all day,” Maalouf said.
“We have people who have 100% seen a change in just demeanor just from walking in being with her and walking out and have said that to us. People who were even skeptical of our program at first but she’s been a huge asset and benefit to a lot of us and if it's just one person she’s reached out to and helped, that’s all we wanted,” Chally said.
“She’s only been here about four or five months and we’ve seen huge benefits from it and just in peoples attitudes when they are able to come in and come down here so I think there's a bunch of different applications for things like this and mainly to raise awareness to the mental health and to de-stigmatize it,” Maalouf said.