Monday, February 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm
In a report by the Detroit Police Department, it was summarized how the condition of grieving families was not aided by the rules and procedures laid down in the handbook to deal with the death of a police officer. This report was made after one, Mrs. Laurie A. Erickson was alarmed by the issue of death notification procedure and survivor support by the Detroit Police Department and in many other states following the death of her husband, Bryon J. Erickson. The incident might have happened in 1993 but since then she has dedicated her life to study, better and aid Police departments around the country in assisting grieving families better and notifying with compassion and dignity.
In her study it was shown that there is a partial differentiation within the Police department regarding the notification of the concerned family and support service based on whether the officer passed away due to an accident, feloniously on duty or off duty. As she summarized in her statement, it should really never matter how a police officer passed away because it leave every single family member distraught.
One of the first things Mrs. Erickson points out is the way in which death notifications are delivered. Not only is there a discrimination in who delivers the message, the authority of the responsible person to deliver the message but also no one actually answers questions that adds grief to those who are already in pain and suffering.
At present there is a specific coordination of events right after the death of a police officer. The guidebook for Detroit Police Department stresses on the showing of compassion and professionalism as an obligation towards the survivors of the officer to the law. In order to fulfill the post-traumatic situation requirements the following titles are present within the Police Department: Hospital Liasion Officer, Notification Officer, Family Liasion Officer, Benefits Officer and Department Liasion Officer.
Each officer is detailed a list of responsibilities that include being compassionate and careful of what they say. They should answer questions posed towards them by the grieving family and also ensure to take care of the family in whatever manner possible until the funeral is over. The Benefits Officer though is entitled with additional responsibilities that lay down the topics for support to the surviving family.
- Informing about compensation claims and filing for them. Assisting the family under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Act (if deemed appropriate).
- Getting in touch with County Officers to ensure that beneficiaries immediately start receiving retirement and death benefits, remaining paychecks and any kind of payment due on lieu of sick time, vacation time etc.
- Collecting information for funeral payments, benefits and establishing educational funds or trust funds for the family’s wellbeing.
- Notification to Fraternal Order of Police, Labor Unions and Police Organizations to clear entitlements and any payments due.
- Informing the surviving family of aid and assistance, sources and printouts of funeral payments, benefits due to them with the name of each beneficiary, amount and due time when they shall get paid.
- Providing a hard copy of all aforementioned steps taken and following up six months afterwards to make sure that benefits are being relayed to the family.
These processes are detailed in Police Department Handbooks and honestly reiterating them here will turn this into an exhaustive post, one filled with details and little enthusiasm. What Mrs. Erickson was trying to summarize through her study and ensuing support for other grieving police family members is that the documentation to properly inform and support family members of Police Officers killed on or off duty is there, it only needs to be stringently enforced without forgetting dignity, compassion and professionalism (as is already mentioned in the guidelines) for the sake of those who lay their lives on the line every single day.