Cooper the Black Lab isn’t a law enforcement dog, and he’s not quite a therapy dog. He’s more like a crisis assistant, helping to bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental health professionals.

He works with the Vermont State Police alongside his human partner, Nicholas Tebbetts of Northwestern Counseling and Support Services.

“Cooper has responded to a lot of fatal accidents, accidental fatals, completed suicides, we support DCF in certain situations with kids and everyone is just drawn to the dog,” Tebbetts told WCAX News.

Screenshot via WCAX News

The Hardest Working Pup In Police Work

The local state police barracks has five dogs of their own, but Cooper offers a completely different set of skills. He is highly trained to help deescalate volatile situations and offer comfort to victims of trauma.

“When you show up with a dog, they immediately want to go to the dog, they immediately want to pet the dog, they immediately want to play with the dog. So just by having him there, not even by having him do any work, they immediately want to deescalate and hang out with him,” said Tebbetts.

Screenshot via WCAX News

Cooper is much more than just a comfort dog. In order to ensure they’d be an asset to police, he and Tebbetts sought the highest level of training. The versatile pooch attended the police academy where he became desensitized to yelling and gunfire. He also earned national certifications in tracking, article search, and obedience.

And the learning doesn’t stop just because Cooper is certified. He participates in an extra 16 hours of advanced training each week to hone his skills. State Police Lt. Jerry Partin calls Cooper and Tebbetts an invaluable asset. They offer a balance that cannot be found with any other K9 program.

“With him on scene, he can’t do what we do, and then we can’t do what he does, so that partnership should always be there,” Partin said.

Screenshot via WCAX News

Expanding On Cooper’s Success

The program to embed a clinician like Tebbetts with the Vermont State Police began in 2016. Since then, “45% of scene responses with a clinician have resulted in mental health referrals and additional outreach, as opposed to an arrest or more tragic outcome.”

Both Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and Vermont State Police are eager to see the program expand. NCSS is a part of a statewide mental health network and is ready to work with other police departments.

Screenshot via WCAX News

The lieutenant who came up with the partnership idea says it’s the most beneficial program he’s been affiliated with, and that a team like Cooper and Tebbetts could help fill a much-needed crisis worker role in police departments.

H/T & Featured Image via WCAX News

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