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Law enforcement officers frequently deal with unspeakable, and often senseless, tragedy.
We witness the most gruesome, callous things human beings can do to one another on a daily basis, and, no matter how much we may empathize with the victims and their families, we must deal with these situations objectively and professionally.

But when one of the law enforcement agency’s own is the victim, dealing with such a tragedy becomes extremely personal.

It’s hard to remain objective and organized when you’re grieving.

A line-of-duty funeral involves myriad activities, events, tasks, services, and ceremonies, which typically involve over a hundred issues to be evaluated, modified, applied, managed, and coordinated, all on a strict time line.

There will be little time for in-depth discussions, revisions and preparations. A select strategic planning team may find themselves responsible for a staff of a hundred people on the day of the services, with events at several locations, and attendance in the thousands. All of this occurs simultaneously with the criminal, traffic, or death investigation, as well as during a time of collective shock and grief for the agency.

When a death occurs is not the time to test your agency preparedness. Time is of the essence. Relying on a funeral protocol from another agency that probably won’t be compatible with your agency won’t build confidence in your ability to adequately manage such a solemn obligation. Preparing to make the death notifications to the surviving family members and learning that the contact information is outdated, unnecessarily complicates the entire notification process.

Informing your primary funeral planning team of their individual responsibilities only after a death occurs is not effective management and could lead to chaos at a time you can least afford it.

Critical issues that will need to be addressed immediately after the death typically include:

  1. Death notifications

  2. Trust and memorial funds

  3. Identifying the primary planning team

  4. Selecting the funeral coordinator

  5. Scheduling the services

  6. Identifying critical personnel and logistical needs

  7. Providing Critical Incident Debriefings

  8. Selecting a Family Liaison Officer

Having a professional coordinator on your team helps ensure the best possible decision-making in a high-stress environment, providing you with the best information available, mixed with hands-on experience, so that any decisions made during the planning are as sound, objective and compassionate as possible.

  • Line-of-Duty funerals are always done right, but not always done best

  • Agencies are encouraged to consider scheduling the Planning for the Unthinkable – the Police Funeral Training

  • Agencies are encouraged to contact John when a death occurs and consider adding him to their management team whenever possible

In John’s experience, there will likely be over 150 issues that need to be identified, reviewed, evaluated, modified, and possibly integrated into the funeral planning process.

The family needs guidance, not instruction. What funeral coordinators must avoid is a scenario in which the surviving family learns after the funeral services are over:

  ·         that options were available that they weren’t told about

·         that they weren't told when they could be allowed more time in making important decisions

·         that others made decisions that they should have made

You get only one opportunity to give your officer a meaningful, dignified memorial, and it should be done the best way possible. Funerals are for the living, and the memories last a life time. John encourages agency decision-makers to take advantage of the expertise and services he offers.

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John C. Cooley
Certified Bereavement Facilitator
(805) 522-4861

Email: policefunerals@icloud.com

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Last modified: July 06, 2015