The Folsom Police Department recently welcomed a new member to its force , one who is small in size, a little bit furry but big in purpose. Meet Liberty, the department’s first official therapy dog. 

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A two year old female Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Liberty was furnished with her official Folsom Police Department vest last week. While filling her new role with the Police Department, providing comfort and therapy to others is nothing new to Liberty. 

According to her owner, Folsom Police Officer Morgan Sears, who has had Liberty since she was just a puppy, has been making a difference in the lives of others for some time now. The two have worked together visiting those in care homes and other similar facilities.

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Sears joined the Folsom Police Department just over three years ago. Today, she is one of the department’s school resource officers. In her day to day role working with students as well as the community, she saw a need and a unique way to fulfill it.

“As a school resource officer, one of our tasks is to find ways in which we can better serve our youth and our community,”  Sears told Folsom Times. “There were many times where I would have a sensitive situation and the need for chaplains to assist. In many cases they would bring a therapy dog as we worked through a situation and I saw how that interaction worked so well.”

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It was then that Sears had an idea and took it to the upper levels of the department. She proposed finding a way to integrate Liberty into the department as a therapy dog for such situations. The idea was then presented to the Folsom Police Foundation for review and potential support.  The Foundation was in support of the idea and quickly put a plan into action to fund the resources needed to make get Liberty working side by side with Spears.

“The foundation really stepped up to make this happen,” said Sears. “The department has been wanting to add a therapy dog to its program but it’s not easy to place such a dog, it takes a commitment for someone to become the handler. So, they made this a pilot program and covered the basic costs to get her working with me.”

The foundation provided the funds needed to officially make Liberty a member of the force, along with her official apparel, her temperature sensing crate for the partol unit and more. 

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In the case of Liberty, the experience was already in place, as well as her handler. Now, Sears and Liberty often work side by side, not only in sensitive times of need, but in the form of fostering positive relationships with local students and those in the community.”

So far, the community has welcomed Liberty with open arms. When she visits a school campus with Sears, students are drawn to her and it opens up engaging conversation between Sears and the students, something that is crucial when it comes to a school resource officers role to be able to communicate with students, not only to sense a possible situation they may be struggling with, but to build confidence to speak out when a sensitive situation arises that can range from anything such as a loss of a classmate, an accident or a troubled situation at home that may need attention.

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“In many situations, a student or even and adult can be very uncomfortable when it comes to talking about it, that’s when it can be really helpful to have a therapy dog because their attention becomes focused on the dog instead of me and help them be more comfortable talking with us and really helps us to get them the help they need.”

Currently, Liberty is “on call” for whenever she is needed for a situation. Additionally, she works aside Sears a few days each week and it’s not uncommon to see area students visiting with her on her travels. In addition to being available to engage with students and the community, Liberty also plays an important role with officers and dispatchers alike across the department. 

“There’s times our officers or our dispatchers can have a very tough day having dealt with a sensitive or tragic situation,” Sears explained. “Having Liberty visit the department after something like that really help an officers mental health. She takes their mind of what they saw or dealt with.”

At this time. Liberty’s role is part of a pilot program set forth by the Folsom Police Foundation. 

The foundation has covered the initial costs to put Liberty in her role and will review future needs, should they arise, so such expenses do not have to come out of the police department’s budget.

According to Adrian Blanco, Vice Chairman of the Folsom Police Foundation, they are pleased with the success of the program and the community support so far.

““The Folsom Police Foundation is grateful to our wonderful community for supporting our endeavors to make this a reality of having our very own in-house therapy dog,” Blanco told Folsom Times. “Thank you to School Resource Officer,Morgan Sears for spearheading these efforts and sharing her “Liberty”  to all of us.”

When she isn’t wearing her Folsom Police vest, Liberty can be found at home enjoying life in ways most dogs do. According to Sears, she knows when its time to “work,” as opposed to when it’s time to play.

“She is excited to go to work, she even waits by the door when it’s time to go in,” said Sears. “Her breed is a working breed, so she is a very busy dog, she runs around with my horses at home and plays but when it comes time to work, she’s focused.”

Sears covers 16 different schools in Folsom as a resource officer. Liberty has been introduced to many campuses already and more introductions are forthcoming as she settles into her new role, aside her very familiar partner.  The engagement with the students is something the school district is also excited about.

“Building strong relationships is a cornerstone of effective education, for students, staff and the community,” said Angela Groffin Ankhelyi, Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. “FCUSD  is delighted to partner with the Folsom Police Dept and Officer Sears as she brings Liberty to our classrooms, to help build positive connections and create welcoming spaces for students in our Folsom schools.”

Folsom Police Officer Morgan Sears pictured with Liberty, the department’s therapy dog and newest addition.
Members of the Folsom Police Fondation Board of Directors and Officer Morgan Sears enjoy a quick photo opportunity with Liberty after being fitted with her official police gear.
Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan