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HPD Tracking Dogs Undergo Training

December 13, 2019, 7:16 AM HST
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A 2-year-old German Shepherd has joined Kona patrol’s ranks at Hawai‘i County Police Department as their new tracking and cadaver dog.

For the past month, Argos has been bonding with Area II Juvenile Aid Section Officer Oliver Agustin. Over the past few days, Agustin and Area I Juvenile Aid Section Officer James Steffen and his canine partner Falcon, have been undergoing tracker training.

From the beach to Kealakekua, retired Honolulu K9 SWAT trainer Wayne Silva has been running Hawai‘i County’s tracking dogs through different training drills.

“We’re training them to track missing people or wanted people — but their main purpose is to find missing children,” Silva said, adding dogs are another tool for police to have in their work.

Steffen, who’s stationed in Hilo, said Falcon has had success in assisting in missing or wanted person cases.

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“His biggest find was when he located an armed suspect in Puna,” Steffen said of the 7-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever.

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Falcon also assisted in locating a 10-year-old boy who was reported missing in December 2018 and was later found safe in Pāhoa.

Left to right: Falcon with handler Officer James Steffen, retired SWAT K9 trainer Wayne Silva and Officer Oliver Agustin with canine partner Argos. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

With the Big Island’s diverse terrain and climates, Steffen said, Falcon has been invaluable as he can track and sense things that no person can.

Falcon and Argos will continue their training today in Hilo.

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Valued at $10,000, Argos was trained at the Houston K9 Academy and donated to the police department by Honolulu nonprofit Friends of the Missing Child Center.

“We think these tracking K9s are critical in tracking missing children,” said Amanda Leonard, coordinator for the Missing Child Center-Hawaii from the Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division out of the Attorney General’s office.

When a child is reported missing, Leonard explained, time is the enemy.

“Having every tool is crucial,” she said.

Argos is filling a position left by the department’s dog Magnum, who died in 2018. Agustin, who was also Magnum’s handler, explained how they used him to track people on the west side as well.

After a full morning of training Thursday, Agustin was all smiles and excited about his new partnership with Argos.

“It’s like training wheels all over again,” Agustin said with a laugh.

The Kona officer has loved bonding and training with his new canine partner.

“His work ethic is crazy,” he said. “He motivates me.”

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