Police Service Dog Honors Fallen Officer Namesake

Police Service Dog Honors Fallen Officer Namesake

By Stephen Owsinski

The law enforcement profession is made more effective with the introduction and varied applications of certified service canines in police work. The bonds between badges shared by canine and handler are unbreakable, and when one is downed in the line of duty, pictures paint heartfelt sentiments and ensuing grief.

Albeit bittersweet, it is largely customary for law enforcement agencies to name their police canines after cops who were slain in the line of duty.

The image you see above depicts the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) therapy dog “Somo,” named after one of their fallen officers, Jose Somohano, who perished in the line of duty in 2007.

Although K9 Somo was not necessarily around back then, his namesake underscores the memorialization law enforcement organizations have for their officers’ line-of-duty deaths, symbolic of the tradition of honoring those who fought the good fight…one last time.

A Moment of Reflection…

As with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, some states honor fallen officers by constructing police memorials or museums dedicated to the legacies of courageous cops who battled to the bitter end.

Florida has such a police museum, the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum, and members of the Miami-Dade PD, including K9 Somo, recently visited the hallowed halls and sacred grounds where law enforcement legacies are emphasized.

(Photo courtesy of the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum.)

“While visiting the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, FL, K9 Support Dog Somo visited the memorial in honor of our fallen hero Jose Somohano. Officer Somohano was shot and killed during a traffic stop on September 13, 2007.”

From the annals of the Officer Down Memorial Page, here is what transpired in September 2007, costing Officer Somohano his life, widowing his wife, and causing their two children to be fatherless:

“Police Officer Jose Somohano was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

“He and his partner were conducting surveillance related to a burglary when they observed a vehicle being driven erratically. When they attempted to stop the vehicle, the man fled on foot into a house at 28165 SW 143rd Court in Naranja. Officer Somohano and his partner called for backup, and two officers who were involved in the surveillance operation responded. When the two backup officers arrived, the suspect opened fire on all four officers through a window in the house. Officer Somohano was shot and killed, and the other three officers were wounded.

“The [shooter] was located later that day in an apartment complex by members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. He was shot and killed by the Miami-Dade SWAT team after opening fire on them when they attempted to take him into custody.

“Officer Somohano had served with the Miami-Dade Police Department for four years and had previously served with the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department.”

(Photo courtesy of the Miami-Dade Police Department.)

A lump in my throat formed when I saw a few photos of K9 Somo in quiet repose, seemingly eulogizing his namesake. How does such a poignant image not captivate the mind?

As others before me have rightly highlighted, “Dog” spelled in reverse is “God.”

As a law enforcement writer, I harbor the bittersweet notions of researching and discovering things that compel deep introspection stemming from fallen LEOs. For example, several new police memorials have been constructed around our nation, some for police canines and others for law enforcement officers in general. These are only necessary due to an increase in fallen warriors who fought the good fight in a climate replete with mayhem and violent individuals who have no love for law and order.

About that research aspect, I endeavored to look up the meaning of “Somo.” According to Names.com, Somo means “Gift of God” (Spanish origin).

The gifts offered by Somo, a certified police therapy dog, are paramount —namely peer support— largely catering to officer wellness and stress reduction among agency personnel whose daily duties are rife with chronic encounters involving grotesque situations. The same holds for those behind the scenes, such as public safety dispatchers who get a steady flow of ugly in their ears for a living.

The International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) staff conducted a study and published a paper on the subject of Therapy Dogs in Law Enforcement. The common denominator in their findings is the symbiosis between police personnel and certified canines being present for each other.

By extension, as the IUPA and many other sources studying police therapy dogs have noted, these specially trained and certified canines are also a blessing for community members of all ages.

One other major feature of police therapy dogs is their effectiveness in consoling victims of crime, providing a quiet, gentle touch for those whose sanctity was stolen by a malcontent in a malicious incident.

(Photo courtesy of the Miami-Dade Police Department.)

About one week ago, Miami-Dade Police K9 Support Dogs Somo, Evelyn, and Dottie, “along with their handlers, attended the advanced 40-hour Multidiscipline Crimes Against Persons Therapy Dog Training in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws and Stripes College.”

If anyone ever wondered about police academy training for canines, the Paws and Stripes College is one example, where police service animals are further refined for dedication to duty. Like their human partners, constant training in various service deliveries by police dogs is a norm in an increasingly unsettled environment…whose population witnesses the unrelenting and unwarranted condemnation of public safety assets.

One may imagine fallen Officer Jose Somohano’s loved ones wholly embracing K9 Somo, who bears their husband/dad’s namesake…manifesting grace and good deeds in the Miami-Dade PD and the community it serves. Indeed, it is a gift from God…like all of His chosen peacekeepers.