The question is not how much can we do? But, how much do we want to do? There is so much that can be done to help a surviving family and our officers and their families when an officer dies from any cause, but especially in the line-of-duty. So I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is, “How much do we want to do?”
I was the funeral coordinator for a large agency, over 9,500 sworn, and I had the staff and resources to do everything we wanted to do. We had officers die on a far too regular basis. We became good at our job of burying them. We provided the surviving family, both immediate and extended family members, with all the support and services, and resources available. We supported the agency members and insured they had access to all the services and resources they needed. We offered the same support, services, and resources to the officer’s families. We did everything we could.
At my seminars I often meet officers who share that they have never had a death and wonder how prepared they really need to be. Will having a comprehensive protocol on file and maybe some resource material available be sufficient? If nothing happens, yes. If a death occurs and you want to do things right, yes. We always do things right. But if you want to do things not only right but best, then it will take more commitment, preparation and work.
To be prepared means to have someone assigned as the agency’s funeral coordinator. Someone who will learn what this means, study the protocol and resource material, seek out training, improve the program, be an active participant in the planning process, be an integral part of the management team responsible for responding to a death, and be supported by the agency executive and command staff. Then the funeral coordinator can be prepared to do all that they want to do, which is all that can be done.
There should never be a question of what should be done, but only how much do we want to do, which is how much can we do. The “how much” will often be determined by how much everyone involved, the surviving family, officers, and the officers families, will accept. It is not determined by the funeral coordinator.
So how prepared do you want to be? Only you can answer that question.
If not you, who?