Overland Park PD’s mental health crisis unit gets police dog to help with responses

At one year old, Overland Park Police Department's newest police dog Haven is officially the youngest to gain her CIRT-K9 certification. Image via City of Overland Park Twitter account.

Overland Park’s police department officially has a new member. 

Haven, a one-year-old lab and hound mix, just passed her Critical Incident Response Team, or CIRT, K9 certification, making her the youngest police dog at the department to ever receive the certification. 

What it means: To be CIRT-K9 certified means a police dog or police dog team has legally met a set of standards for responding to crises. 

The certification is done through Alliance for Emergency Response Instructors — a company specializing in emergency training.

Haven attended the National CIRT K9 Conference in Olathe last week. Through the conference, she underwent a week of certification training. 

Sgt. Stewart Brought, Haven’s handler, said the training for certification consisted of a range of classes for both of them, ranging from health and maintenance classes to exposure training exercises at different locations like the Overland Park Arboretum and the county’s New Century Detention Center.

What Haven had to do: Haven had to demonstrate calm behavior with people and with 14 other dogs without excessive jumping, barking or other aggressive actions.

Brought also had to instruct Haven to follow “stay” and “down” commands for three minutes while he walked away.

Finally, Brought said Haven role-played a “visit” with a stranger — during which she had to demonstrate how she would interact with a new person in Brought’s absence and demonstrate an emergency stop by following the “down/stay” command while she was running toward him.

Brought said Haven passed the CIRT-K9 test with “flying colors”.

What’s next for Haven: Haven will serve the police department’s Overland Park Crisis Action Team (OPCAT)’s Behavioral Health Unit, a new addition to the department from earlier this year. 

She will provide peer support to the department and assist officers in forming bonds with residents who are experiencing mental health crises as well as with community members during events. 

She was officially sworn in this January after being rescued from Texas, and she had her first deployment to help a community member later that month.

Another one of her first calls to action after being sworn in involved comforting students after the shooting at Olathe East High School in March.