Photos of a new recruit in a recent Facebook post by the Bluffton Police Department elicited 250 comments from neighbors who professed instant love, as well as the desire of some to get arrested so they could meet the handsome young thing.
His name is Justice, and he is the new social mascot for the department. By the way, Justice is a puppy. His title is PR K-9.
The puppy was a rescue who, with four siblings, was being sheltered at Hilton Head Humane Association.
Capt. Joseph Babkiewicz said it wasn't necessary for anyone to get arrested to meet Justice, as he will be out and about in the community with a number of officers who will be his handlers.
"We are going to train him in obedience and that is about all," Babkiewicz said. "He is going to be our social dog for many of the events that we participate in each year." These include the Farmers Market on Thursdays, annual festivals, school events, National Night Our and other BPD events.
Babkiewicz said Justice was named for "exactly what we stand for here at the Bluffton Police Department. Justice is essentially a means in which fairness and impartiality is administered."
Assigned to the department's Community Action Team, Justice and a handler will also visit local care facilities, youth groups, and anywhere else the team serves.
"We wanted a mascot that we could use to help encourage kids (and adults) to come and talk to our officers and feel comfortable," said Babkiewicz, who is the supervisor of BPD's K-9 units.
The officers also want to help promote pet adoption from local animal shelters. That effort has already been successful. Soon after a posting that his four siblings were still available for adoption at Hilton Head Humane, another post indicated they all had found new forever homes.
While Justice will not be doing drug sniffing or other searches, he will be doing police work, Babkiewicz said. "(He) will be helping us continue to build relationships with our great community."
While his pedigree is unknown ("He is part shepherd and a big part mutt," as posted on the department's Facebook page), the pup has gained numerous fans on social media and in person. "Justice is already fitting in with the officers here and is very much looking forward to serving our community," Babkiewicz said.
When he is not on duty, Justice lives with Joy Nelson, community relations manager for BPD, and her family. "I'm lucky to a point," she said. "Justice is adorable and I love having him at home with us and then bringing him to work. However, dealing with a puppy is hard work, especially when they get up at night every three hours."
Nelson said she will be teaching Justice the basics, such as potty training, and how to sit, shake and fetch.