In most law enforcement academies across America there are dozens of classes over several months to complete before graduation. Law classes, procedure training, physical training, firearms training, and situational scenarios just scratch the surface of what cadets learn in the academy. One such situational scenario usually taught is on death notifications.
The jurisdiction where I served as a chaplain stipulated that death notifications were supposed to be made with a chaplain. Procedurally speaking, the chaplain would be dispatched to the scene, confer with the incident commander, and then begin the investigation of identifying and notifying the next of kin. If the notification was local, the chaplain and an officer made the face-to-face notification. If the notification was not local, then every effort was made to have a chaplain from that jurisdiction make the notification in person. However, there are no absolutes and concessions are often required.
In most jurisdictions, a chaplain is a luxury and, even when a chaplain serves a department, they do not perform all death notifications as a rule. Today, law enforcement personnel throughout the United States are routinely called upon to do so much more serving than protecting. The majority of personnel on a national level are in smaller departments that require each officer to serve in multiple roles to make the department much more effective on the whole. An officer serves in the local schools in the area of Drug Abuse Resistance Education, DARE, one or two days each week in addition to their regular patrol shift. Another officer might be assigned to train the volunteers of a Neighborhood Watch program. The department computer geek may serve as the technology officer. A number of officers may compromise a warrant service team or the emergency response team. However, there is one arduous task that all officers may be called upon to perform at some point and more than likely numerous times over the course of their careers: a death notification.
Notifying the next of kin of someone whom has died is never desirable, pleasant, or easy to perform, but certainly necessary. When a death notification is carried out with compassion, an officer can bring peace to a family in crises, but also endear the reputation of the department with the family, friends, neighbors, and the community of the deceased.
Our first step must be to understand what a death notification is. When a death occurs, a family member somewhere needs to be informed of the loss of their loved one. Simply, a death notification is telling the person(s) closest to the deceased about their death. We all know someone who has died or will die. Therefore, a death notification will come to everyone at some point in time.
The death notification does not always follow a horrific tragedy such as an automobile accident or some unspeakable act of violence. In reality that is statistically rare compared to the various other causes of death. A death notification may come to the next of kin of an elderly man who didn’t wake up this morning because he passed away in his sleep. There was nothing sudden or violent to cause the death, but it is a death nonetheless. Every notification is an opportunity to show dignity for the deceased and those closest to them.
In our next Chaplain’s Class, we will outline some guiding principles and procedures for performing a death notification.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and
Those are just a few things that could generally describe Bergen Mease. However, more importantly he is a Believer in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He is a patriot of the United States of America that comes from a US Navy family. He lives with his wife and children, whom they are raising with conservative leanings. He served as a law enforcement officer and more recently as a law enforcement and emergency services Chaplain. His mission is to write about topics that will make everyone think about how they treat others both personally and professionally.