29 Sep 2015

Hundreds gather to commemorate 29 police officers killed on duty

5:06 pm on 29 September 2015

Hundreds of people have gathered around the country to remember their relatives, friends and colleagues who were killed while working in the police force.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Today marks Police Remembrance Day, an occasion which pays tribute to the 29 police officers who have been killed on duty since the New Zealand Police force was established in 1886.

Commemoration ceremonies were held across the country, with the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua hosting the biggest.

Police commissioner Mike Bush told those at the ceremony that this year was the first to commemorate 38 police staff who have died as a result of their duties, including by illnesses or accidents.

"It's been our wish for some time to also formally remember other employees who died as a direct result of their police duties," he said.

"We needed to find a way to honour those who lost their lives in crashes, accidents, explosions, by drowning or from illnesses contracted while carrying out their police duties. Their contribution is part of our history and they need to be formally recognised."

Among those are the crew of the Eagle helicopter which collided with an aircraft over Auckland in 1993, killing all four onboard, and a staff member who died when the CTV building collapsed in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

Mr Bush said the day was also an occasion to remember former, retired or serving police officers who died in the past year.

Lisa Mead attended in memory of her late husband, Senior Sergeant Vaughan Mead, who suddenly died of cancer in 2014.

"He'd been in the force for 36 years and he just loved his job and being in the police, so we're here to remember him and we miss him dreadfully," she said.

Her husband, like many police officers, had helped a lot of people over the years but had done so never seeking attention or praise, she said.

"They do it because they love it and they do it because they have strength of character and it's really important to have those people looking after everybody, they just go that extra mile to do that, everyday."

Julie Powell was at the ceremony to remember her friend Sergeant Graeme Wilkes, who served in the force for 37 years before he died last year.

"I think it's important to remember just what the police do for us and how so often they face challenges in the line of duty which can result in the unexpected happening, and they still go out there and do their job," she said.