NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — There’s a new four-legged member of the North Smithfield Police Department.
Liberty, a 4-month-old Labradoodle who goes by the nickname “Libby,” recently joined the force as a compassion dog.
Officer Nick Tomasetti is one of Libby’s handlers. Tomasetti describes her as a much-needed bridge between police officers and children.
“Liberty has made my job much more enjoyable because the purpose of becoming an police officer is to see and make changes, to help people out,” Tomasetti said. “Through Liberty, I’ve really been able to achieve something I’ve always wanted to.”
Tomasetti said Liberty’s job is to help them take community policing to a whole new level.
And in a way, she already has.
“One of our greatest success stories is with our good friend Dereka [Crosby],” he said. “Through Liberty, we’ve made some profound changes in her life and that’s something we’re proud of.”
Barbara Crosby tells 12 News that Liberty literally saved her daughter’s life.
Crosby adopted Dereka, who is a complex trauma survivor and has special needs, when she was 8 years old.
“She didn’t talk, she didn’t do anything,” Crosby explained. “She withdrew. She didn’t want to leave the house.”
It wasn’t until Tomasetti, Liberty and her other handler, Lt. Greg Landry, walked into their lives that Dereka’s demeanor started to change.
“That first meeting she got up off the couch and went outside in the rain to play bocce with them,” Crosby recalled. “That was unheard of. Then, when she met Libby the deal was sealed.”
“Libby has opened doors for us,” she continued. “She has brought Dereka back.”
Crosby said Liberty has helped Dereka turn the page on her difficult past.
This new chapter in Dereka’s life will hopefully include returning to Special Olympics Rhode Island to play bocce competitively.
“I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done,” Crosby said. “They gave me my daughter back.”