Community Outreach Spotlight
Submitted by Lieutenant Michael Curran of the Upland Borough, Pennsylvania, Police Department.
With today’s environment and ever-changing technology, police departments must think creatively to maintain good relationships with the community. To help achieve this, the Upland Borough, Pennsylvania, Police Department (UBPD) decided to try something new.
The department wanted to adopt a dog in need — specifically, a pit bull because of the breed’s ongoing stigma of aggression and violence. Fortunately, with the help of a nonprofit animal rescue, the UBPD adopted a 7-year-old abused pit bull mix named Halo in March 2019.
Halo lives at the station and spends most of her time traveling from one office to the next. Officers are responsible for her care — they walk, feed, and play with her. She accompanies officers to schools, community functions, and municipal courts. Halo quickly became a celebrity in the community and received a lot of publicity. This fame has resulted in her own baseball cards, stickers, and Instagram page.
Officers initially paid for her care out of their own pockets, but after her story went viral, the UBPD started receiving donations from all over the United States and even abroad. Donations go into a bank account that the department set up for Halo.
The community’s love for dogs and Halo’s impact on the people was immediately apparent. While walking her around Upland, residents who had never had any contact with the police would pet her and strike up a conversation with the officer. This opened communication with people who had issues or concerns but did not want to bother the police with what they considered minor problems. Kids and teenagers often stopped by the station to visit with Halo, which, in turn, enhanced relationships between officers and the community’s youths.
Besides getting to know the residents of the community, adopting Halo also helped change the stigma surrounding pit bulls. “I’m an animal lover and honestly think there’s a misconception about pit bulls,” said a UPBD lieutenant. “Any dog that is shown love is going to give love back, and that’s exactly what happened in this situation. As soon as she knew she was safe, she was a happy dog. Within a week or two, she completely changed; she was timid and shy, and now she’s the opposite.”
The UBPD also noticed the positive effect Halo has had on its officers. Doing police work every day takes a mental toll, and Halo helps officers deal with on-the-job situations that cause them anguish. When an officer returns after a stressful situation, Halo greets them with a lick and wag of the tail. For those brief moments, the officers seem to disconnect from the incident and relax.
Halo was officially sworn in as an Upland Borough police officer in June 2020. She serves as a community police officer (the first in the department’s history), attending events and greeting police station visitors.
Adopting a dog is not ideal for all agencies, but for the Upland Borough Police Department it had a very positive impact on the community and its officers.
“Besides getting to know the residents of the community, adopting Halo also helped change the stigma surrounding pit bulls.”
For more information about Halo, contact Lieutenant Curran at email@example.com.