June 19, 2020, was a dark day for New Zealand's police community.
Constable Matthew Hunt, 28, was gunned down in the course of his duty in Auckland.
His colleague, unnamed for security reasons, was seriously wounded and remains in hospital.
Two unarmed guardians of the peace.
They had weapons in their vehicle but did not need them on a fine winter's morning in Auckland undertaking routine police work repeated countless times all over New Zealand by similarly unarmed police doing their job of protecting our community and preserving the peace, something they all swore to their Queen that they would do without favour or affection, malice or ill-will.
Whether being armed would have helped Matthew and his patrol buddy we do not know at this stage. It may or may not have. A sudden ambush is difficult to survive even when armed.
Matthew was the dear son of Diane and brother of Eleanor. He was an Auckland boy, going to Orewa College and then later, university where he obtained a degree in Criminology before gaining employment in the Corrections Service as a case manager.
He then travelled overseas, returning to New Zealand to fulfil his life-long ambition of becoming a police officer only three years ago. Like many young New Zealanders, his world was still at his feet, snatched away in a moment of madness.
He was a kind young man, helping others was his forte.
I did not know Matthew but I know the type of person who becomes a New Zealand police officer.
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They are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your grandchildren, mothers and fathers, cousins and school friends.
They are ordinary New Zealanders who decide to step up to serve their community, protect others who cannot protect themselves and preserve law and order.
They grew up in New Zealand communities of all classes and ethnicities but they have a strong desire to serve. They are all fit and reasonably well-educated, university graduates now becoming common. Many could make much more money in normal life but choose another path.
The police are at its most diverse now with women slowly creeping up to 50 per cent of the sworn staff, gay, lesbian or transgender police able to operate with respect and support from their colleagues and managers, people of all colours and faiths welcomed with open arms if they fit the entry requirements.
They are our people, not a strange force that arrived by flying saucer.
The police with the community's consent despite elements in our community who would deny them this ability.
Sudden violent death is hard to accept for most people, police included.
As a retired police officer I have seen more than my share of on-duty deaths and serious injuries, I have cried the tears that mates shed after traumatic events, I have sat with police families trying to help them; console them; bring some sense to what has happened.
I have tried to drink away the hurt and memories with other grieving police, tough men and women unafraid to cry when our friend has just been taken.
We have comforted each other and those bonds formed in those times are life-long. We have then faced our own partners and children, trying to explain to them the tragedy of someone, perhaps a family friend, dying so suddenly while doing their sworn duty and then comforting them while they comfort us.
New Zealand's police community is a large group referred to as "the police family" or by some, especially retired police as "the blue family".
They share loose bonds with overseas police as people who understand what it is to "wear the blue".
There are just fewer than 10,000 sworn staff and another few thousand unsworn staff in the New Zealand Police. They all have families considered part of the police family.
Also, there are still several thousand ex-police who have served, a few for a lifetime but most for a goodly portion of their working life.
Policing is a tough gig and very few manage a lifetime career. They, however, never forget their training, service, and ex-colleagues.
They and their families are also part of the police family. Many have children now serving so they still live with the ongoing fear that their child may not come home from work.
Policing is a family calling for many, just like farming, medicine, the law, military or nursing.
When police die doing their duty, deep sadness and a hollow feeling still grip most right-thinking New Zealanders. Please do not let that change.
This is a sad time for all New Zealand, but especially so for Matthew's mother and sister who need all our support, and his colleagues in Auckland, especially the staff at the Harbour Bridge station, his last posting.
Okioki i runga i te rangimarie tetekura mo tangata toa, - Rest in Peace brave warrior.