Sympathies expressed for shot officer

Political leaders say they are saddened by the death of a police officer who was gunned down in the line of duty in Auckland early today.

A police officer was killed and another wounded when they were shot in Mangere, Auckland, at 1.44am, while involved in a drugs surveillance operation.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said it was a sad day for the officers' families and the entire police force and they had her deepest sympathy.

"Police serve our community well, and it is a tragedy that a police officer has been killed in the line of duty," Helen Clark said.

National Party leader John Key also extended his sympathies to those affected by the shooting and said it was reminder of how dangerous the work of the police could be.

"It also saddens me that it has been just two months since another police officer was killed in the line of duty - Sergeant Derek Wootton," Mr Key said.

At a media conference this morning Police Minister Annette King noted the death came "fast on the heels" of the loss of Sergeant Derek Wootton who was struck and killed by a stolen car as he laid spikes on a Porirua road in July.

"I'm not sure, but I think the last time we lost two police officers in a year was in the 1960s," Ms King said.

"Fortunately it isn't something that happens very often, but when it does, it is a great shock."

Ms King would not discuss what happened at the latest incident, saying it was not appropriate to do so and she was not well enough informed.

However, she said the police were doing a fantastic job in the battle against the drug P.

Asked if she was concerned about another violent incident in south Auckland, the Police Minister said she didn't want to talk about that.

"I think we'll just wait and see from the police what the issues are," Ms King said.

"But remember the last one wasn't in south Auckland, and we've had murders of police on the west coast of New Zealand, we've had them in the Hawkes Bay. I mean, it is a violent, random act, and wherever it happens it is a tragedy."

Ms King is making arrangements to visit the families of the officers as soon as they are ready and a meeting can be arranged.

"These were officers carrying out their duties, on behalf of New Zealanders, and whenever they carry out such duties there is an element of risk," she said.

Acting Manukau Mayor Gary Troup said the shooting was a despicable act which would be condemned by the city residents.

"The officer who was killed in the line of duty has made the ultimate sacrifice."

He said the council had been working to strengthen communities, "but our job is next to impossible when we are confronted with the face of evil - the scourge of P, methamphetamine and drugs generally."

The council flag was to be flown at half-mast today.

- NZPA, PAULA OLIVER

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