Matthew Hunt: Police Remembrance Day the first in 11 years to honour officer killed on duty

The life of Constable Matthew Hunt will be honoured at a poignant Police Remembrance Day service on Tuesday, the first in 11 years to commemorate an officer slain in the line of duty.

On June 19, Constable Matthew Hunt, 28, was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in the Auckland suburb of Massey. 

He is the 33rd New Zealand police officer to be killed by a criminal act in the line of duty since the record began.

Hunt, as well as the lives of serving, retired and former officers who passed in the preceding 12 months, will be honoured in a series of memorial services in commemoration of Police Remembrance Day.

Members of the NZ Police whānau will gather at the annual ceremony, held at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua, at 11am. A number of local services are also being held across New Zealand.

Commissioner of Police Andrew Coster, Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and Minister of Police Stuart Nash will attend. During the service, Coster, Reddy and Nash will lay wreaths at the memorial wall, and recruits will perform a haka in honour of those lost.

"This is the day when we remember all of the officers slain on duty. Matt was the 33rd officer and for the family and friends, it's another reminder of the fact that he's no longer with us," Commissioner Coster said to The AM Show ahead of the ceremony.

"We will be reading through the roll of honour - all 33 names - as well as those members who have died in the last year, whether retired or currently serving."

Matthew Hunt, 28, was killed while undertaking a routine traffic stop in Massey, West Auckland.
Matthew Hunt, 28, was killed while undertaking a routine traffic stop in Massey, West Auckland. Photo credit: Supplied

The national service will be livestreamed, Coster said, allowing the New Zealand public to join the NZ Police whānau in commemorating the lives of deceased officers.

It follows a private ceremony at the Royal New Zealand Police College on Monday, during which a memorial plaque in honour of Hunt was unveiled.

"We had Matt's family, friends and colleagues there and of course, they are struggling. He [had] incredible potential and had done so much in his life working for Corrections before the police - his motivation was to serve his community. So they are doing it tough everyday," Coster said.

Coster, who succeeded former Commissioner of Police Mike Bush in April, said losing an officer in the line of duty is particularly difficult to come to terms with in the leadership role.

"It's really tough, you carry that burden in a different way as the Commissioner. Ultimately it's my responsibility that our people go home safe," he said.

"It is hard, I take it very seriously. I can't have another one lost on my watch."

He also reflected on the death of Matt Ratana, a Hawke's Bay-born officer who joined London's Metropolitan Police in 1991. The 54-year-old was killed at Croydon Custody Centre on Friday when a 23-year-old, handcuffed suspect fired several shots, before turning the gun on himself.

Ratana, a passionate rugby coach, went to school in Palmerston North and  returned to the New Zealand Police for a five-year stint from 2003 to 2008.

"I didn't work with him but those who did described him as a larger-than-life character. He was an experienced officer when he came to us, and clearly very experienced in the UK. it just shows how unpredictable policing is," Coster said.

"There will be lots of people around our organisation who worked with him or were on his wing. It's just another reminder of the dangers of what our people do out there for our communities everyday."

Police Remembrance Day is held every year on September 29, the feast day of the Archangel Michael, the Patron Saint of Police.

The last officer to be killed in the line of duty was 53-year-old Senior Constable Leonard Snee, who was fatally shot on May 7, 2009, while executing a cannabis search warrant.

The national service will be livestreamed on the New Zealand Police Museum Facebook page from 11am. The livestream will remain on the Facebook page to watch after the service.

The full list of people who died as a result of their police duties is available here