NZ police, Customs and Pacific nations celebrate dog graduation success

The valued partnership between New Zealand Police, New Zealand Customs Service and Pacific border and police agencies working together in targeting organised crime was celebrated today with the graduation of nine new detector dog teams.

After nine weeks training at the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre in Trentham, Wellington, five handlers from Samoa Customs, Tonga Police, Fiji Police, French Polynesia Gendarmerie and French Polynesia Customs graduated today. Four New Zealand Customs officers and their dogs also took part in the ceremony formally recognising their graduation as operational teams.

“It’s a proud day for the graduates and for all of our agencies, highlighting the value we place on working together to protect our borders and our communities,” says Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator of New Zealand Police Dogs.

The ceremony was hosted by New Zealand Police at the Dog Training Centre in Trentham and attended by officials and guests.

“Customs’ detector dog teams are a valuable addition to our capabilities in protecting New Zealand’s borders through their training to detect narcotics and cash,” Customs Group Manager Intelligence, Investigations and Enforcement Terry Brown says.

“While these four teams have now been operational with Customs, based in Auckland and Christchurch, over the past year, it has been wonderful to have them all together to share their graduation.”

Chief Customs Officer, Dave Huff, who works closely with his New Zealand Police counterparts to support border and enforcement capability in the Pacific, adds that it is especially significant to share today’s formalities with graduates from the Pacific Detector Dog Programme and the graduates from the separate programme of support to French Polynesia Customs and the Gendarmerie.

“Detector dogs are an additional and vital layer of protection used by enforcement and border agencies both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and our counterpart agencies in the Pacific.

“The NZ Police and NZ Customs Pacific Detector Dog programme has been running for six years now and we are proud of the close collaboration we share with all of our partner agencies in the region. These international partnerships will enable us to continue the fight against transnational organised crime groups which target our Pacific region,” Mr Huff said.

Inspector Todd Southall says the partnerships are effective at both the operational and strategic level, and New Zealand Police was very pleased to support, host and train handlers from the Pacific agencies. NZ Police also supplied the dogs from the police detector dog breeding programme.

“It’s been a busy and demanding nine weeks for the handlers but they’ve risen to the challenges, including changeable weather,” he says.

The course was led by New Zealand Police dog training instructor Sergeant Mike Robinson assisted by Chief Customs officer Dave Huff and Principal Customs Officer Taito Nawai Damuni. New Zealand Police also provided the five dogs, four of whom will be heading offshore to work in the Pacific.

Photos attached:

Caption Pacific Narcotic Detector Dog Course: (from left to right): Gendarme Randy Grimadias (French Polynesia Gendarmerie) and Bael; 1st Class Principal Agent Thierry Amaro (French Polynesia Customs) and Crete; Sergeant Mike Robinson (NZ Police); Constable Kameli Vaniqi (Fiji Police) and Chief; Principal Customs Officer Taito Damuni (Fiji); Constable Uluaki Havea (Tonga Police) and Cricket; Customs Officer Taase Vaetoa and Euro (Samoa Customs).

NZ Customs:

1: Christchurch CO Kat and Dexter. Kat joined Customs in 2007 and became a detector dog handler in 2016.

2: Christchurch CO Hannah and Thor. Hannah joined Customs’ Detector Dog Unit in early 2022.

3. Auckland CO Cheryl and Aroha. Cheryl started with Customs Detector Dog Unit in early 2022.

4. Auckland CO Luke and Leo. Luke has been with Customs since 2018 and joined the Detector Dog Unit in 2021.

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