Law enforcement officer line of duty deaths are an unfortunate part of contemporary society. The untimely death of an officer killed in the line of duty affects family, coworkers, friends, and even extends into the community. Many law enforcement agencies around the nation have effective and thorough line of duty death policies, while others agencies have weak or nonexistent polices.
A comparative analysis of existing line of duty death polices for various law enforcement agencies and fire departments was conducted to locate established policies and evaluate their usefulness. Of the agencies examined, some have minimal policies, while others have extensive line of duty death policies regardless of the number of line of duty deaths experienced. Research extended beyond the agencies to find other available resources to assist survivors after a line of duty death. Of the agencies studied, many used peer counseling, chaplain programs, and retreats to provide survivors with the ability to cope with line of duty deaths. The most simplistic steps to facilitate the healing process are when agencies have specified what they consider a line of duty death, created a defined and realistic notification process, established logistics for funeral planning, and instituted a comprehensive emotional care plan for the survivors.
Experiencing a line of duty death often causes a great deal of stress for the survivors. Having a policy in place to detail the steps required after such an event can aid in stress reduction. The lack of proactive thinking by agencies leads to reactive behavior by those affected, which has shown to be ineffective.
This thesis recommends that all law enforcement agencies institute a line of duty death policy. The Concerns of Police Survivors organization has established a large conduit of information and resources to assist agencies with establishing line of duty death policies. In addition, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned from agencies that have experienced line of duty deaths and have written policies. This thesis identifies these viable line of duty death policies and makes recommendations for implementation in agencies without such policies.
This thesis recommends that agencies research and incorporate what is already available and create a written line of duty death policy. The recommendations of this thesis focus on the needs of the St. Petersburg Police Department; however, any agency can modify these recommendations accordingly. The areas of focus in any policy should include defining line of duty deaths and job classifications, death notifications, accurate emergency contact information, logistics, and survivor support. When determining what parts of the policy are needed, overlooking the vital aspect of proper notifications can be detrimental. While each category is important to the overall policy and agency resiliency, it is imperative that agencies recognize which policies are vital to their organization.