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'Her only role is just spreading love and smiles': Angel the K-9 helps bridge gap between community and police

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Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 15, 2022

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — One of the most popular members of the Richmond Heights Police Department isn’t an officer with two hands, instead, it’s a K-9 with four paws.

Angel and Lieutenant Denise DeBiase have been partners since last fall. Angel ended up in the hands of the department after a man working on the police station’s HVAC system mentioned he donates dogs to veterans with PTSD.

The man offered to donate the K-9 to help the department strengthen its community policing efforts.

Since then, DeBiase and Angel have been accomplishing goals officers can’t necessarily achieve with their everyday tools.

“We have tools for everything here, as police officers, but she’s a different tool,” said DeBiase.

The daily conversations and smiles that Angel brings help strengthen the department's connection to the Richmond Heights community.

“Her only role is just spreading love and smiles,” said Police Chief Thomas Wetzel.

The four-legged friend makes her way around town, to places such as the grocery store, local bank, nursing homes, hospitals and schools.

Even when she’s having fun out and about, Angel plays a role in active scenes such as deadly fires and accidents, as a way for first responders and victims to cope.

“It has a therapy application right within our own police department because they’re exposed to some really tough things sometimes,” said Wetzel.

However, Angel isn’t the only officer with four paws on the force. Her main role is to support and bring smiles. Rather than her counterpart, Bolt, who is trained to help fight crime.

“He can search for drugs, he can search for people, he can apprehend suspects,” said DeBiase.

Angel’s presence eases community apprehension about approaching police.

“Our department has been trying to do community policing, almost on steroids, and this dog has allowed us to bring it to the next level,” said Wetzel.

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