Life is a bit more difficult for criminals on land and in the air after the latest graduation from the Police Dog Training Centre (DTC).
Seven Police patrol dog teams and six Aviation Security (AVSEC) explosives detector dog teams graduated from their training at Trentham on Thursday 11 May.
The weather was unpromising but the rain held off for long enough for the handlers to graduate in front of families, friends, colleagues and other supporters.
Four of the Police handlers are first-timers, graduating with their first dog. The most experienced of the seven, Senior Constable Andrew Lillie, has served 16 years in Police and graduated with his third dog. You can find brief bios of the handlers below.
Speakers included Acting Assistant Commissioner Jill Rogers, representing Commissioner Andrew Coster, and Karen Urwin, AVSEC Group Manager Operations, who presented certificates to their respective handlers.
Jill congratulated the handlers and acknowledged the work they and their instructors at Trentham and in their districts had put into the training and development of the teams.
The graduation of the AVSEC handlers continued a theme of partnership at the DTC - last month, the centre saw the graduation of police and customs detector dog teams from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
“It really is safer communities together,” says Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator Police Dogs. “At the DTC we’re really engaging with all partners, nationally and internationally.
“There are five countries in the Pacific who we’re working closely with. Last week we had a meeting with other agencies around breeding. So it’s not just about training, we’re working together closely to look at breeding to meet the increase in demand.
“Other agencies look to us for additional support, which is a sign of New Zealand’s excellent reputation in this area.”
There were a number of extra presentations at the graduation, including Certificates of Appreciation to four foster families who attended to see ‘their’ dogs graduate, and a Certificate of Promotion to trainer Sergeant Matt Fage.
There was a special moment when Todd presented a bouquet to Kaye Calder from the Media and Communications team, who retires from Police next month after 37 years.
He thanked her for her career-long support for Dog Section. For the past 10 years Kaye has held the role of Senior Comms Advisor Reality TV, in which she has supported staff and managed Police input into shows including Dog Squad and its Puppy School spin-off.
Constables Michael Hargreaves with Midnight, Andre Kocis with Jock and Gavin Morrison with Fender.
Constable Michael Hargreaves (Timaru)
Michael graduated with his first operational dog, two-year-old Midnight – the only female among the graduating police dogs.
Michael worked in Hamilton for six years, including two years in AOS, then moved to Timaru for a sought after dog handler position with Canterbury Dog Section, covering the Aoraki Area.
Constable Andre Kocis (Whangārei)
Andre graduated with his first operational dog, two-and-a-half-year-old Jock.
Andre joined Police in 2019. He worked PST and Road Policing in Auckland before transferring to Northland for the dog position, based in Whangarei.
Constable Gavin Morrison (Wellington)
Gavin graduated with his first operational dog, two-and-a-half-year-old Fender.
Gavin joined Police in 2018. Since joining Dog Section he was initially paired with patrol dog Fox (aka Tomeke) before taking over Fender who had been working with another handler.
Constable Aaron Senior with Cole, Head of Tasman District Dog Section Sergeant Craig Moore and Senior Constable Andrew Lillie with Buzz.
Senior Constable Andrew Lillie (Blenheim)
Andrew graduated with his third operational dog, 18-month-old Buzz, who he and his family fostered from a puppy.
Andrew joined Police in 2006 and worked in Queenstown and Auckland before joining Christchurch Dog Section. In 2018, he and patrol dog Kase competed in the National Police and Detector Dog Championships where the pair won the Monaghan Trophy for heel work. He transferred to Tasman in 2021 where he’s continued to work Kase and now Buzz.
Constable Aaron Senior (Blenheim)
Aaron has worked in Police for eight years, within Blenheim and the West Coast of Tasman District. His previous dogs were both AOS operational and he has been a regular competitor at the National Police Dog Championships, where he and Nour won the Colin Guppy Cup for tracking in the 2022 national championships.
Constables Ruan Smit with Lexx and Vanja Spiric with Steel.
Constable Ruan Smit (Tāmaki Makaurau)
Ruan graduated with his first operational dog, two-year-old Lexx.
Ruan joined Police in 2017 and worked in various frontline units in Auckland before joining Dog Section in May 2022. His mother was once a dog handler in South Africa.
Constable Vanja Spiric (Tāmaki Makaurau)
Vanja graduated with his second operational dog, two-year-old Steel.
Vanja joined Police in 2012 and has been with Auckland Dog Section for several years. He has been worked with patrol dog Bear for nearly eight years, in both patrol and tactical roles, and they remain an operational team.