HAWTHORNE (CBSLA.com) — A local police department is one of only two in the country with a special kind of dog on the force.
Golden retriever Scotti is a therapy dog with the Hawthorne Police Department, where he helps to comfort residents and build trust in the community.
Together with his handler, Lemeka Bell, Scotti makes visits to medical patients, senior citizens, and even to crime scenes.
Among his admirers is Lomita resident Jasmine Faulk, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
"My stomach will be hurting and I would like feel tired and that stuff," said Faulk. "And then when Scotti came I didn't feel that way anymore."
"We figured canines were a fantastic way to connect with people," said Sergeant Chris Cognac of the Hawthorne Police Department.
"It opens up communications channels between the community and the police department," he said. "Scotti's here to help calm them down and to give them the courage that they need to come forward and to help themselves."
In October, police brought Scotti to the family of Inglewood father Filimon Lamas, who was killed along with his 4-year-old son while protecting his family during a shooting rampage.
"It was fantastic to see how they took to Scotti and it helped ease their pain," said Sgt. Cognac, who said Scotti was present at the family's news conference and made visits to their home to help them heal.
Hawthorne resident Lee Roberson credits Scotti with helping him recover after surgery for prostate cancer.
When he came out of surgery, Roberson said Scotti "was laying on my chest, his head was on my chest."
"And I knew my buddy was taking care of me," said Roberson.
Scotti was trained at Canine Companions for Independence in San Diego by apprentice trainer Sarah Koch, who said all dogs receive the same training in standardized commands, socialization and skill work. Along the way, staff evaluate what type of placement the dogs would be best suited for.
"We really thought a facility role could be nice for him," said Koch.
The organization primarily focuses on training dogs for people with disabilities, and placing Scotti with the Hawthorne Police Department was an exception.
"They're doing something to benefit the lives of others," Koch said.
"I'm happy that they're standing by me," said cancer patient Faulk. "I like Scotti, like, a lot."
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