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Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau pets the village’s new therapy dog, Leo, as officer Rich Miller looks on. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau pets the village’s new therapy dog, Leo, as officer Rich Miller looks on. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Park officials have plenty to bark about with new comfort dog

By Jeff Vorva

Well, someone was able to bark at the mayor without a gavel slamming down.

Village of Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau and the board of trustees were introduced to the police department’s newest employee, a black Labrador comfort dog named Leo.

Leo made the rounds and had his police badge pinned on him at Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting and the 8-month-old pup barked a few times throughout the meeting.

The dog arrived from Florida the night before and officer Rich Miller and Leo got to know each other in the Sunshine State for a week.

“Leo went through four months of therapy training,” Chief Joseph Mitchell said. “And for one week, Rich got trained by the dog.”

The dog will be used to not only comfort police officers, Leo will be out in the public dealing with children and those with mental health issues during crimes or high-pressure situations.

“He can show love and compassion for those who are victimized by crime,” Miller said. “Also, he will be there for everyone in the police department. He will be there for those who are first responders in stressful situations. They will have the ability to hang out with him for awhile.”

From dog to Foxx

Mitchell spent a good portion of the meeting revealing crime statistics from the village.

He was overjoyed that, thanks in part to a youth supervision program limiting the hours of teenagers going to the Orland Square Mall without an adult, property theft was down from 387 reported cases to 318 from the same time frame last year.

In 2020, the mall was closed for 74 days due to COVID-19 concerns so the decrease occurred during more business days in 2021.

The chief was not as thrilled with gun arrest figures. One firearm was seized an average of every five days in the village.

“These are high caliber weapons,” Mitchell said.

Pekau was perturbed that so many multiple offenders are coming to the village with guns and is blaming Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for that, as he said she is letting too many criminals run free in the county.

“Our police officers are pro-actively taking guns off the street,” the mayor said. “Out of 39 arrests for gun charges, only one was a licensed gun owner, who was arrested for a DUI. With all of these serious gun violations, 80 percent were prior criminals.”

“Despite the lack of support from the state’s attorney’s office, the village of Orland Park Police Department continues to do a fantastic job.”

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