It’s Police Week. We should take a moment out of our hectic lives to remember all of our fallen brothers and sisters in blue that unselfishly gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting others, and doing the job that they and we love, being cops.
But as we remember them, we must also take this time to face the harshest realities of our job: some of us have died, and unfortunately, more of us will die in the line of duty in the future.
How a law enforcement agency handles an officer’s death in the line of duty could be just as traumatic as the death itself, if it is handled poorly and/or without preparation.
Have a Plan, Have a Policy
The worst news a loved one will ever hear doesn’t need to come by telephone or by way of the six o’clock news. It needs to come from the brotherhood, from the top officials in the agency, and it needs to come with a hell of a lot of comfort, sympathy, and support.
I’m talking to you, chief, and to you, sheriff. That officer who gave his or her life wearing your uniform deserves for his family to be treated like royalty in their time of need.
If your agency doesn’t have a line of duty death policy, complete with instructions on how to go about notifying and taking care of the officer’s immediate family and their immediate needs, THEN GET ONE.
Having a policy in place still isn’t enough, if you have no one who has practiced executing the same. Notification teams should be in place. Training should be conducted.
Officers should have filled out a line of duty death notification information sheets that tell the agency who to notify, who they want to make the notification and any other specific information, including requested pall bearers.
I believe if an officer wants his partner, or his best friend in the department to make the notification, it is still the high ranking official’s job to be standing right next to the requested officer, because ultimately that fallen officer was working for the chief/sheriff and they (you!) should remember their sacrifice and take it personally.
A fallen officer’s family deserves to hear this tragic news first, before anyone else. There could be kids involved, so get over to their house ASAP, in a marked squad and in full uniform. They will need financial, psychological, and logistical needs during this time. Provide it.
If you agency doesn’t have a line of duty death policy in place, you can start with a model policy found here.
Further, you can get line of duty death survivor benefits specific to your state by visiting ODMP.org.
None of us want this to happen to us, and none of us deserve to die in the line of duty, but if it happens, I pray that my family, and your family would be taken care of the way they should, and that’s being treated with the utmost respect and attention that is deserved because their loved one gave their life for their Chief, their agency, their community, and their country.
And to all the families of my fallen brothers and sisters, my thoughts and prayers are with you always. Godspeed.