Monday, April 22, 2024

Newest police dogs on parade

An epic graduation at the NZ Police Dog Training Centre last week saw 22 Police boots and 44 paws deployed to help make New Zealand’s communities safer.

Ten patrol dog teams and one detector dog team graduated in the ceremony – including four who were able to graduate in May due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The teams’ experience ranged from first-time handlers to a veteran with his ninth dog – “there are literally generations of police officers in our midst,” said Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny, addressing the gathering.

Graduating were Constables Jaymi Oxley (Eastern District); David Balck and Scott Higby (Bay of Plenty); Ben Nelson (Central); Hannah Templeman and Stuart Clarke (Tāmaki Makaurau); Jordan Steegh (Wellington); and Will Sams (Canterbury); and Senior Constables Hugo Du Plessis (Tāmaki Makaurau); Tony Willetts (Central); and Hamish Todd (Wellington). You can find out more about them at the foot of the story.

Opening proceedings, Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator Police Dogs, first addressed the first-time handlers.

“Not many people understand the stress, the hard work and commitment that it takes to train a puppy through to operational police dog,” he said.

“So for you guys – after all that hard work, those sleepless nights, congratulations on being successful and graduating here today.”

He acknowledged the mentoring role of the more experienced handlers, and the leadership and the reassurance they provide to colleagues on policing’s front line.

“A while ago 1,300 frontline staff were interviewed and one of the things that came out was how valued our frontline dog handlers are. Our PST staff feel much safer and reassured when you’re there. Take that as a credit to you all for the work that you do.”

He said Dog Section was moving into exciting but challenging times.

“I’m really committed to make sure our dogs, our handlers and our dog teams are really fit for purpose for the future.”

“Over the next 18 months there’s a lot of work going to be done to ensure that, moving into the future, we are fit for purpose. That will be very exciting.”

Fund-raiser Natalya Manton with Superintendent Warwick Morehu, Director Training, and Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny.

Assistant Commissioner Penny, representing Commissioner Andrew Coster, acknowledged a diverse audience which included the Auckland women’s soccer team, politician and former police dog handler Mark Mitchell, invited by the handlers, “and someone incredibly special”.

That person was Natalya Manton, from New Plymouth, who was so moved after seeing coverage of an injury to a police dog that she made and sold dog treats to help support Dog Section through the Police Dog Trust, raising an amazing $3,000.  

“When we’re talking around the impact that policing and dogs have… I think, Natalya, you really sum it up,” said Assistant Commissioner Penny.

“We have someone sitting in their house who sees one of our really special members of our dog whānau get hurt and you do something about it, so thank you.”

Turning to the dog teams, the Assistant Commissioner echoed Inspector Southall’s comments about the reassurance they provided to their frontline colleagues.

“For the work you do, thanks seem not enough,” she said.

“Keep going into our communities, keep going into the schools and look at the faces of the children as they see you and your canine partners… look at how much they trust you.”

In acknowledging the handlers individually, she paid special tribute to Senior Constable Hamish Todd, who has dedicated his 35-year career to frontline policing and who, she admitted, would hate to be singled out.  

“That deserves immense respect – our veteran police officers who stay dedicated to the front line and become frontline specialists. My friend – a huge thank you. You are incredible.”

The handlers and their dogs

Constable Jaymi Oxley and Xargus, Constable David Balck and Oslo and Constable Ben Nelson and Epik.
From left: Constable Jaymi Oxley and Xargus, Constable David Balck and Oslo and Constable Ben Nelson and Epik.

Constable Jaymi Oxley and Xargus (Hawke’s Bay)

Two-year-old patrol dog Xargus is Jaymi’s first operational dog. He has previously fostered three puppies.

Constable David Balck and Oslo (Tauranga)
Three-year-old patrol dog Oslo is Dave’s sixth operational dog.

Constable Ben Nelson and Epik (New Plymouth)
Two-year-old patrol dog Epik is Ben’s second operational dog.

Constable Scott Higby and Chip, Senior Constable Hugo Du Plessis and Freeze, and Constable Hannah Templeman and Geo.
Fromn left: Constable Scott Higby and Chip, Senior Constable Hugo Du Plessis and Freeze, and Constable Hannah Templeman and Geo.

Constable Scott Higby and Chip (Tauranga)

Two-year-old patrol dog Chip is Scott’s first operational dog. He previously fostered police dog Lycan, who is now operational in Waikato.

Senior Constable Hugo Du Plessis and Freeze (Tāmaki Makaurau)
Two-year-old patrol dog Freeze is Hugo’s first operational dog.

Constable Hannah Templeman and Geo (Tāmaki Makaurau)
Patrol dog Geo, affectionately known as Giovanni, is 22 months old and Hannah’s second operational dog.

Constable Jordan Steegh and Manaia, Constable Will Sams and Vako, and Senior Constable Tony Willetts and Acure.
From left: Constable Jordan Steegh and Manaia, Constable Will Sams and Vako, and Senior Constable Tony Willetts and Acure.

Constable Jordan Steegh and Manaia (Wellington)

Four-year old patrol dog Manaia is Jordan’s first operational dog. He previously fostered Acure – who graduated with Tony Willetts – and Jago, who is now operational in Wellington. 

Constable Will Sams and Vako (Christchurch)
Five-year-old patrol dog Vako is Will’s first operational dog.

Senior Constable Tony Willetts and Acure (New Plymouth)
Two-year-old patrol dog Acure, previously fostered by Jordan Steegh, is Tony’s first operational dog. Tony has fostered five puppies for Dog Section.

Constable Stuart Clarke and Denzo, and Senior Constable Hamish Todd and Colt.
Constable Stuart Clarke and Denzo, and Senior Constable Hamish Todd and Colt.

Constable Stuart Clarke and Denzo (Auckland)

Stu has his third operational dog in 21-month-old patrol dog Denzo. He worked two operational dogs for short periods before taking charge of Denzo in June 2021.

Senior Constable Hamish Todd and Colt (Wellington)
Hamish has previously worked with three patrol dogs; three explosives detector dogs, one of which was deployed to Samoa, Tonga and Rarotonga; and two firearms detector dogs. In 20-month-old Colt, he has his first operational narcotic detector dog.

Hamish has won the National explosives detector dog competition twice and competed in two Australasian Dog Trials, coming second on one occasion.

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