Today I took part in the Police Remembrance Day service at the Royal New Zealand Police College where I work. This day falls on 29 September each year, the feast day of the Archangel Michael – the patron saint of police.
The official service honours the New Zealand, Australian and South Pacific police officers who have been slain on duty. It also remembers New Zealand Police staff – serving and retired, sworn and non-sworn – who have died in the past year.
I formed part of the kapa haka group at the service – my first official function with the group since joining a few weeks ago. While I’m not a religious person, I found it particularly moving being a part of the group singing the Lord’s Prayer in Māori in front of a crowd of several hundreds.
Something that made the service even more moving for me was that the very first name read out was my wife’s great-grandfather. Constable Neil McLeod is believed to have been the first New Zealand Police officer slain on duty, shot on board a steamer at Dargaville on the night of 29 July 1890.
Since his death in 1890, 28 more New Zealand Police officers have been killed while on duty, with three of them being killed in the past three years. Here is the full list of slain officers and their stories.
Considered tapu, or sacred, by Māori, the wearing of the huia tail feather as ornamentation is considered a great honour. The tail plumage of the huia bird, now also lost to us, is extremely special.
The incorporation of the New Zealand Police chevron symbol into the huia tail feather, with the small cut at the top signifying loss, communicates the honour and loss of someone special to police.