The newest member of the City of Menasha Police Department is a two-year-old golden retriever-lab mix who’s job is to defuse crisis situations in six Menasha elementary schools.
She is trained to use her softer side to calm children down through distraction and non-verbal communication, a far cry from a k-9 officer who normally sniffs hallways looking for drugs.
Geller, is the first dog in the country to be a police service dog who’s main beat is to patrol the hallways and classrooms in schools, making a better learning environment for the children.
“There are service dogs who work in schools with counselors and there are dogs that work with police that do community outreach,” said Menasha Police Chief Timothy Styka. “This is groundbreaking.”
Geller and her handle, Officer Jeff Jorgenson has been training together for over a year and in their short stint together they have already starting making a difference to kids in school.
“I previously dealt with a three hour temper tantrum once,” said Jorgenson. “In fifteen minutes we turned him around and brought him back to class, it is not something I did.”
Menasha School Superintendent, Chris VanderHeyden has a goal to train school staff members to deescalate situations and thinks that Geller can help.
“The worst case scenario is that either one of our school staff or Officer Jorgenson has to get physical with a child, we never want to see that happen,” said VanderHeyden.
Officer Jorgenson is looking forward to working with Geller to make a difference, the dog was given to the Menasha Police Department by Canine Companions a training program out of California who value the investment in Geller at $60,000.
“She is the most non judgmental creature I’ve ever met she loves everyone,” said Jorgenson. “She’s incredible and she brings something that humans can’t bring.”
With school almost finished for the year, Geller will spend the summer doing outreach in the community or being there in a sensitive crime interview.