They say a dog is often a reflection of its owner.
In this case, that’s more than true.
Sgt. Elizabeth “Liz” Lawrence and her dog Marshall aren’t your typical mother-son duo.
“Oh he’s my partner, 100%,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence just retired from the Bend Police Department after 30 years of service.
“When I was 13 years old I became an Explorer, which is a branch of the Boy Scouts, with the Bend Police Department,” she said. “And I decided right then and there that I was going to work and retire at Bend Police Department.”
Marshall’s time with the department started in 2016, after Lawrence formed the Community Response Team for mental-health related calls.
“We were actually one of the first in the nation to have a therapy dog with a law enforcement uniformed officer,” Lawrence said.
“Normally, they’re with a volunteer. Other agencies have called me across the nation to also have therapy dogs within their programs.”
Since his arrival, Marshall has visited schools, the hospital, the library, the courthouse, and anywhere else emotional support is needed.
Lawrence and Marshall were certified through Pet Partners, where they are required to re-test every two years.
“What therapy dogs help do is they help bring your blood pressure down, they help with anxiety, they help with some forms of aggression,” Lawrence said.
“It’s like a grounding exercise when they’re just feeling the fur and being in the moment.”
Bend PD’s Deputy Chief of Police Paul Kansky admired Lawrence’s initiative to create the Community Response Team and put in the work to get it off the ground.
“The impact since then has been Marshall visiting nearly 4,200 youth in our community, and over 1,600 adults. That’s really since she started documenting it, so it’s probably much more than that,” he said.
Cpt. Brian Kindel believes other police officers could learn from Lawrence’s example.
“Her empathy and compassion for others is second to none, and I think it’s always good to have that whenever you’re dealing with individuals, whatever the state they’re in. I think that’s something all officers could use more of,” he said.
Officer Amy Ward has known Lawrence for 22 years, and she believes there couldn’t have been a better person to lead the Community Response Team.
“Sergeant Lawrence was a calming presence to those she had contact with and it was guaranteed the person would be treated with dignity and respect,” Ward said.
“She was quick with a smile and a ‘what can I do to help’ attitude. Her approach consistently deescalated situations and allowed for the person she was with to be seen and heard.”
Ward said Marshall always soothed the tension in the community’s interactions with police.
“I would see people who might not normally engage socially with officers do so, and after a pet or checking out his police photo ID, leave with a smile.,” she said.
“K-9 Officer Marshall always seemed to have a smile on his face as well, even during the naps he snuck in while on duty.”
Lawrence says treatment of others is paramount in a job like hers.
“When people say law enforcement doesn’t belong in mental health calls, we have a completely different approach,” she said. “When you work with your community partners, and when people see you with empathy and compassion, the uniform doesn’t matter. It’s all in your approach to people.”
Lawrence will continue working with Bend-La Pine Schools and the High Desert Education Service District, producing more chances for her and Marshall to spread the love they give so freely.
“I get such joy out of making people feel better,” she said. “I can’t fix their problems. I can offer some things to help. Marshall, for some people, gave that moment of decompression.”
“They got a chance to just hang out with a person and dog that really just valued those people for being them,” Kansky said. “No matter what they were going through, no matter what they had done, they just valued people as they were at that moment. And that is Liz and Marshall.”