PROVIDENCE, RI — The Rhode Island State Police introduced the newest and smallest member of the force to the public on Friday. K9 Gus is a nine-week-old goldendoodle puppy, who will serve as the department’s new comfort dog.

Gus will be partnered with Sergeant Heather Palumbo, who is part of the department’s new Special Victims Unit.

“The criminal justice process is difficult for trauma victims and we hope to make it a little easier,” Palumbo said. “The interview room is a place where victims and witnesses should feel comfortable sharing their story so that investigators can more effectively obtain information about the case.”

Gus was introduced at the department’s open house for the new “soft” interview room, a space created as part of the Special Victims Unit, which launched in March 2021. The unit deals with sensitive crimes including sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, pedophilia, labor and sex trafficking.

Once fully trained, Gus will help reduce stress and anxiety for victims, witnesses and the investigator during the interview process. Over the next year, he will undergo basic obedience training and be part of the department’s community outreach.

“Sometimes the hardest thing to do in an investigation is to build a relationship with the victims so that they trust you to disclose their abuse,” Palumbo continued. “We hope that by using the soft room and K-9 Gus, we can more quickly gain a victim’s trust and enable them to be helpful in their own case.”

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