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Tonga Police Detector Dog Unit needs progress

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 17/06/2019

Tonga Police Detector Dog Unit has assisted many successful police operations in drug related investigations although the acting sergeant of the unit admits there are several areas that need progress. With the return of one of their officers who successfully completed a 6-week training at the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre, this will be a boost to improving their work.

The Police Detector Dog Unit helps in the fight against drugs by surveying the two entry points at our borders – the wharf and the airport. The acting sergeant of the unit – Sione Puna’ivaha says their work has been progressing with the continued improvement of the detector dog’s skills as they not only help find drugs but they can also find firearms and cash.

There are only 2 police dogs – Sandor and Gemma, in this unit, and when Samuela Pekipaki completed the 6 weeks training at the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre, he became only the 3rd qualified handler in the unit. Pekipaki says there were several things he learned about during the training in New Zealand and he is positive that with that new knowledge and skills, they would be able to move forward in the unit’s operations.

Supporting this, Puna’ivaha said training was one of the important areas that they needed assistance in the most because the police dogs have a lot of work to do, but handling and caring for them was a lot of work too.

He said some of the issues they face includes the lack of proper resources for the dogs and also the lack of training for police officers in handling the dogs saying it was a job they needed to be consistent with in order to maintain the standard of the police dog’s skills.

Pekipaki was able to join this training courtesy of New Zealand, as an important part of the Pacific Detector Dog Programme building capability in the breeding of police dogs and the training of dog handlers in Pacific Island countries including Tonga.

With drug related crime on the rise in recent years, police and related partners are looking to stem the flow of drugs into the country by strengthening security at our borders, one of those ways is by empowering the Police Detector Dog Unit. By increasing the number of qualified officers in this unit to further develop their work, our borders, and our country as a whole can be made safer.

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