Pandemic-related travel restrictions haven’t halted Police’s cooperation with our Pacific neighbours.
While previously dog handlers from Fiji have come to the Dog Training Centre at Trentham for training, this year COVID-19 meant a narcotic detector dog training course had to be conducted – with New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs Service support – at home.
The course was run by the Fiji Detector Dog Unit (FDDU) supervisors from Fiji Police Force and Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS) in Nadi, with virtual input from New Zealand-based training staff.
It saw Customs Officer Faraaz Faizal Khan and his Trentham-bred detector dog Luey successfully qualify – and they have since gone on to enjoy operational success.
The course was opened with a video call from Trentham by Inspector Todd Southall, National Coordinator of Police Dogs and Pacific Detector Dog Programme (PDDP) Manager.
Course leaders sent videos, which New Zealand-based staff used to assess Faraaz’s progress.
Suva-based FDDU team leaders carried out the final assessments and certification, and the course ended with a virtual graduation and presentation of Faraaz’s certificate, with remote input from Police and Customs in New Zealand.
Fiona McPhail, Senior Project Officer in Police’s International Services Group, says the course came about after it became clear COVID-19 would prevent travel for some time. “We knew we needed to do something proactive,” she says. “Over the past few years the FDDU has developed really good skills, knowledge and experience.
"We worked with the guys on the structure of the course, they sent videos every day of the handler and how he was doing, and basically he was outstanding.”
Todd says the course presented an excellent opportunity for the Fijian staff to take on leadership roles in training.
“The guys did really well,” he says. “The quality of the training in-country and the skills shown by the handler were all very good.
"It shows the strength of Fiji Police and FRCS working together and the maturity of our relationship with them. Even under exceptional circumstances, we can work together to bring about a great outcome for the PDDP.”
Todd says Inspector Sue Douglas, Pacific Liaison Officer based in Suva, was invaluable as New Zealand Police’s representative in Fiji. Among other duties, she provided training on risk assessment for search warrants, exhibit handling and integrity at the completion of the course.
Sue says the FDDU is known for its professionalism and drive for continuous improvement, as reflected in the success of the course.
“The way FRCS and Fiji Police staff work within the FDDU is an impressive model of cross-agency cooperation,” she says.
“Both services work as an integrated team, respectful of each other’s value while working toward a common purpose – keeping Fijians and the Pacific region safe.”