The deaths of eight traffic officers were recognised for the first time today in a service remembering police staff that have died as a direct result of performing their duties.

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

It honours police staff who have been slain or died as a result of their duties as well as serving, retired and former police staff who have passed away in the preceding 12 months.

A national service at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua was held today, honouring 32 police officers and officers of the former Ministry of Transport Traffic Safety Service, which merged with police in 1992, who died as a result of criminal acts.

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The service also focused on the 48 constabulary and non-constabulary staff members who died as a direct result of performing their duties, including the eight Traffic Safety Service staff who were formally recognised for the first time.

They were identified through police's ongoing Recognition Project, which was started to ensure that all police staff who have died in the service of their communities are appropriately acknowledged.

Deputy Commissioner Resource Management Audrey Sonerson lays a wreath on the memorial wall at the national Remembrance Day service. Photo/supplied
Deputy Commissioner Resource Management Audrey Sonerson lays a wreath on the memorial wall at the national Remembrance Day service. Photo/supplied

Commissioner Mike Bush, who attended the national ceremony in Porirua, said Remembrance Day is the most poignant day in the police calendar.

"It's a time for all of us, not just police, to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of those who have been slain on duty, as well as the contribution of those who have died as a direct result of their efforts to keep their communities safe.

"In 32 cases, these deaths were the result of criminal acts, and in another 48, they were caused by crashes, accidents, drownings while attempting to save lives and illnesses contracted while carrying out their police duties.

"Whatever the reason, it's important that we identify all these staff and ensure they are properly honoured and remembered, not just by us, but by the communities they served."

As well as services in New Zealand, Police Remembrance Day is observed across Australia and the Pacific.

The recognised Traffic Safety Service staff are:

- Main Highways Board Inspector Thomas Arthur Allcock, 25, stationed in Rotorua. He died on December 24, 1938 after he was struck by a truck while trying to pull over another vehicle

- Transport Department Inspector Edmund Lawrence Fox, 34, stationed in Gore. He died on December 6, 1954 in a head-on collision with a truck that crossed the centre line near Waikaia

- Transport Department Inspector George Henry Jenner, 58, stationed in Christchurch. He died on May 15, 1955 in a collision with a truck while supervising a drivers' licence test

- Traffic Officer Richard Henry Cecil Dench, 31, stationed in Christchurch. He died on November 23, 1970 when he lost control of his motorcycle during pursuit training on the road between Paremata and Pauatahanui, Porirua

- Traffic Officer Martin Ross Miller, 21, stationed at Wellington. He died on March 14, 1973 when his patrol motorcycle and a truck collided on the Johnsonville-Porirua motorway

- Traffic Officer George Nelson, 23, stationed in Wellington. He died on October 25, 1975 when a sports car pulled into his path, throwing him from his motorcycle and causing a severe head injury

- Traffic Officer Robert Clive Bell, 21, stationed in Wellington. He was responding to a vehicle crash on his patrol motorcycle, with the red light flashing, on February 12, 1978, when he crashed into a car that pulled into his path

- Traffic Officer Steven Alan Perry, 22, stationed at Lower Hutt. His patrol motorcycle collided with another vehicle on the corner of Nelson St and the Esplanade, Petone, and he died of his injuries in Wellington Hospital on April 4, 1983