Sunday, March 3, 2024

New dogs join Pacific drug crime frontline

Four constables – two from NZ Police and two from Fiji Police – will graduate from the Trentham Dog Training Centre tomorrow.

The Police detector dog handlers, along with handlers and dogs from Fiji Police and Fiji Customs, have completed their training and are ready to join the frontline.

Experienced handler, Senior Constable Lyal Bayliss and Detector Dog, Luther, are heading back to Canterbury to start work. After 18 years of operating patrol dogs on general duties and with the Armed Offender Squad, Snr Constable Bayliss will return as a narcotics detector dog handler.

In 2009, he received a Bronze Merit Award with his dog Duke for apprehending an offender who was armed with a knife. In 2021 he was later presented with a Commissioners Gold Merit Award for bravery with dog Brock for apprehension of an offender with a firearm.

Luther was the last dog handled by Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, who died of natural causes in May of this year. Snr Constable Lamb had several dogs – notably Gage, who lost his life when he was shot in the line of duty protecting the officer in 2010. 

Heading to Auckland is Senior Constable Zoe Eginton, who will graduate with her first operational dog, four-year-old detector dog, Villa. 

Snr Constable Eginton, an officer with 15 years in Wellington District, has worked both frontline and investigative work before being promoted to sergeant.

She’s always held a dream of becoming a Narcotics Detector Dog handler and jumped at the opportunity when it became available. 

Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator: Police Dogs says, “The Pacific Detector Dog programme, which is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, managed by New Zealand Police and supported by New Zealand Customs Service has proven to be very successful.The programme focuses on Transnational Organised Crime and regional security across the Pacific. These new handlers are excited to graduate with high performing dogs and will continue to support and be a part of the programme.”

“It’s been a demanding few weeks for all the handlers, especially our colleagues from the tropics, who won’t be used to the cold spring weather we’ve been having in New Zealand,” he says.

Graduating from Fiji Police and based in Suva are Acting Sergeant Niumaia Lawanicina with Detector Dog Frosty; Constable Ilimeleki Leweiloma with Detector Dog Herb and Constable Sailasa Kerekere with Detector Dog Hague.

Also graduating alongside his Police colleagues is Senior Customs Officer Roko Volau and Detector Dog Ike from Fiji Customs, Suva.

New Zealand Customs Group Manager Intelligence, Investigations and Enforcement, Terry Brown, congratulated Fijian Senior Customs Officer (SCO) Roko Volau and his fellow graduates.

“SCO Volau’s graduation, along with his Fijian Police colleagues, and together with the Tongan Police representative assisting the Pacific Detector Dog Programme, continues an important relationship between Pacific border and enforcement agencies and New Zealand Customs,” he said.

“Like New Zealand Police, Customs is proud to be part of the Programme and the valuable work it does supporting enforcement capability in Pacific countries. Detector dog operations and deployment supports wider efforts to combat the growing threat of transnational crime in the Pacific. This programme will support our Pacific partners to disrupt drug smuggling closer to the source, and reduce harm reaching New Zealand.

“The tasks the trainees have faced under the scrutiny of the trainers while replicating their day-to-day variety of operational work is not always easy. Weeks away from home and hard training will be put aside when the handlers receive their graduation certificates tomorrow. 

“We’ve been assisted by Sergeant Sione Punaivaha from Tonga Police, who has helped train the handlers on this course.  Sione has been with the Tongan Dog Section since 2014. 

“Dog teams do an amazing job in helping keep our communities safe.  Their ability to detect scent is approximately 5000 times that of humans.  They are remarkable at what they do in detecting cash firearms and narcotics.  They undertake a range of equally important prevention and community engagement work alongside their everyday role,” Mr Brown said.

These teams provide a critical frontline response for Police and Customs in regard to detection and prevention – we can’t do without them.”

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