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Southern policing duo named top dogs, winning Erridge Cup for 'stellar' work

A Southern policing duo are taking the term "top dog" literally - taking out this year's Erridge Cup for their "stellar" work on the frontline.

Dunedin’s Constable Marcus Saunders and his patrol dog Vann have been named as winners of the the Erridge Cup - a prize given to the top performing rookie dog team in the country.

The pair only become operational in August last year, but police said in a statement today the Southern duo have had "a stellar start".

From August 23 to the beginning of April they've made 41 tracking catches, 42 arrests, and seven pre-warning arrests; laid 80 charges; issued 98 infringement offence notices; and carried out 86 bail checks.

Just in the past couple of weeks Marcus deployed Vann to apprehend a man holding a knife. The offender was a fleeing driver who was using the weapon to threaten fellow officers.

On another job, they tracked and caught two robbery suspects who ran away after fleeing police in their vehicle. Constable Saunders chased and caught one of the offenders before handing them over to the Police Service Technician team. Deploying Vann, he then tracked the second offender, who was found hiding in a backyard.

National Coordinator for Police Dogs Inspector Todd Southall was full of praise for for Constable Saunders and Vann's work ethic and success.

"This prize is well deserved as they've had an outstanding first year," he said. "They represent the success story of the Dunedin Dog Section and the fantastic work they've been doing for the District."

But Constable Saunders is keen for the praise to be directed to his partner, Vann.

"I’m lucky to have such a good dog. He’s the one that deserves all the credit," he said. "Dog Section traditionally attracts people who’re highly motivated and I am just fortunate to have a spot."

Constable Saunders encouraged others to join the police and become a dog handler, saying "it’s a great job."

Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham said the achievement was a triumph for the pair and the wider district.

"This is a very impressive accomplishment by Marcus and Vann. This award rightly recognises their professionalism and is a reflection of their commitment to our communities," he said.

"I’m very proud of our dog teams across our district. Both our handlers and their patrol dogs are tenacious and are dedicated to catching offenders and reducing victimisations."

Dunedin’s Dog Section supervisor Sergeant Mike Calvert nominated the Constable Saunders and Vann because he was impressed with their "big picture approach" to policing.

"While on patrol, Marcus also has a strong focus on reducing death and injury on our roads. This is evident by his productivity in Road Policing," he said. "He performs at an exceptional level in both his dog handling duties and overall policing."

Nominations for the Erridge Cup for the best first year dog handlers are sought nationally from Dog Section supervisors and decided at their annual seminar held this week at the Police Dog Training Centre, in Trentham.

Dunedin’s Constable Marcus Saunders and his patrol dog Vann have won the Erridge Cup Source: NZ Police