EPS Employee Receives Award for Trauma Dog Pilot Program
Jo-Ann was presented the 2023 AACP Award for Outstanding Volunteer Achievement by Chief Dale McFee at the AACP Conference in Banff.
Last year at this time, civilian employee Jo-Ann Yewchuk was piloting a trauma dog support program at EPS, but no one could have foreseen how critical the program would become a month later.
EPS lost five employees over the span of a month, with the tragic line-of-duty deaths of Constables Brett Ryan and Travis Jordan, as well as the off-duty deaths of two sworn members and a civilian employee.
“March was hard,” said Jo-Ann. “We’re the first responders, the fixers, the navigators, the problem solvers, and we couldn’t do a darn thing to fix what happened over those four weeks. There were so many people hurting, I knew we needed to get the trauma dogs out there.”
Jo-Ann is an EPS Business Analytics and Reporting Analyst. She is neither a member of the Crime and Trauma-Informed Support Services nor the Employee and Family Assistance Section, but she knew the therapeutic value of canine companions for improving health and well-being.
Jo-Ann with service dog Axel from Dogs with Wings.
She has spent the past 15 years volunteering with service dogs and helping train them, and took it upon herself to present a service dog business case to the EPS Senior Leadership Team.
As a result of her extensive efforts, EPS launched a six-month pilot project in December 2022, with Jo-Ann coordinating service dog visits off the side of her desk in her spare time.
During the difficult months that followed the loss of the EPS employees, the dogs brought comfort to those impacted by the deaths and helped mend hearts across the organization.
“The dog teams assisted with debriefs, staff meetings, employees returning to work, we answered every request for support,” added Jo-Ann. “We walked in the doors of many divisions and units, and simply said, ‘This is Cindy the service dog and yes you can pet her.’ And the response was immediate.”
Just the presence of the dog teams around staff helped to calm nerves and take minds off the trauma, stress, and helplessness that first responders are exposed to daily.
Cindy from Aspen Service Dogs has a friendly visit with EPS employees.
Employees were grateful for the support, and the success of the pilot project led to Jo-Ann being nominated for the award by her co-workers.
The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) award recognizes an employee who has demonstrated exemplary and/or innovative voluntary activities outside the scope of their regular duties, to the police or community at large, in support of policing operations which impact at a local, municipal, or provincial level.
“We’re very grateful to Jo-Ann for bringing this innovative initiative forward for her fellow employees and the organization,” said Chief Dale McFee. “We never want to lose sight of employee commitment or contributions, especially when they step outside their roles for the benefit of the police service.”
Congratulations Jo-Ann Yewchuk on receiving this special honour.