Reaching Out to Officers and Their Families

I often encountered difficulties in getting information to officers and their families when a line-of-duty death occurred. The information I typically wanted to distribute or inform them of was usually grief and bereavement related or information about support services and resources that were available.


Often I would make a brief presentation at roll calls and unit meetings and discuss support services and resources for the officers and their family members. Usually the handout material I would distribute would be found in the trash after the officers left. Officers seem to be reluctant to keep or take home information that may be helpful to them or their spouses and children that involve psychological or bereavement issues.  

Often agencies would have policies that restricted how the agency could contact family members directly. So we couldn’t send information through the mail addressed to “The family of ….”

Yet, there were also times when officers would share the information and we would get feedback that inquiries were being made and services provided. My objective was to make people aware of a variety of services and resources for them and their families and their friends, partners, and co-workers that may be beneficial in helping them through these difficult times, food for thought. If they declined the offer, fine. But to not be aware of it because the information was filtered out or screened by an officer, that’s really a disservice to everyone.

My discussions with officer’s family members after a funeral, often months later, would often include comments that they were not aware of the services and resources available to them through the agency. That there were few comments made about the death of the officer. That the most common comments made were something like “don’t worry about me ….” And “if something ever happens you’ll be well taken of.”  No personal introspective sharing, no emotions, no discussions about psychological support services or even finances. Although any of topics are private and personal they usually need to be discussed. My real concern is that they are not just ignored, but avoided.

Some very simple services like providing grief and bereavement material, informational meetings for specific agency members and/or their family members, and providing information about agency services and resources is beneficial, healthy, and an individual decision to use them or not. Information should be welcomed and shared, not blocked and trashed.

Another related issue is who should go to roll calls and unit meetings etc. and make presentations about support services and resources available to agency members. The answer is simple, someone who supports and believes in the importance of the message. I sat in the back of one roll call where the watch sergeant was assigned to make the announcement of services etc. He began his presentation by saying something like, “The chief wants me to tell you that the agency shrink is available for anyone who can’t handle what happened last night….” This is not what you want said or how you want it said. Be careful.   

The important thing is that funeral coordinators and agency manger’s need to try. Trying is more then handing out brochures or making an announcement. It takes some planning and effort and commitment. If not you, who?

John Cooley