Supporting bereaved families

The recent terrorist attacks stressed the importance of bereavement training for consuls and the police. Sue Ackerman outlines the work Rowland Brothers International (RBI) is doing to support families, consuls and the police.

RBI will be participating in the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) Conference in Birmingham next week, which is attended by Family Liaison advisors and strategists representing constabularies nationwide.

Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) are police investigators who collect information in homicide investigations by liaising with the bereaved family. Consulates are grateful to receive news about a tragedy as soon as possible, as unfortunately bad news travels fast. It is difficult to compete with the speed of social media, so we encourage delegates to report emergencies to the relevant consular office as soon as they can, to minimise anxiety or delay when relatives call diplomats seeking information.

The RBI team also participated in two training days for the Met Police to assist them when dealing with bereaved families. The first event at Hendon brought together Family Liaison Officers from the Metropolitan, British Transport, City of London and Military Police. The second event in Earls Court was exclusively for the Metropolitan Police.

This is a very sensitive time for families so the seminars raise awareness of issues which can arise during an investigation, from practical issues to faith or cultural requests, and how they can be resolved.

Our presentation focussed on embalming and facial reconstruction, a specialist restorative procedure which can offer a family the opportunity to view their loved one even after severe trauma.

To help police officers reassure families about cremations and burials, we took a group of officers to a historic London cemetery, to familiarise them with local funeral protocol, and how cemeteries and crematoria accommodate faith and cultural needs.

Members of the RBI team also participated in a training day with The Samaritans, focussing on conversations with vulnerable people, and developing skills to deal with emotionally challenging situations. We are planning to incorporate elements of this training in our annual Bereavement Training sessions. Unfortunately, bad news not only travels fast but often arrives outside normal office hours. If your Duty Officer would like information about local protocol following a fatality, or you would like to know more about our Bereavement sessions, please contact us.

Call +44 (0) 208 684 2324 or email sue@rowlandbrothers or

 PHOTO: Sue Ackerman, Rowland Brothers International (RBI)