Local News

MADD Offers Officers 'Death Notification' Training

Posted May 13, 2004

— Imagine finding a sticky note on your door telling you your spouse or child has died.

Believe it or not, that has happened.

Telling someone that a loved one has died is a heart-wrenching job no one wants. Law enforcement officers do it every day, and it is the toughest part of the job.

Thursday, officers received special training on how to handle those delicate situations.

"I think about it mostly how I'm driving there," said Sgt. Amy Varner, of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, "and think about exactly how I am going to tell that person."

Said Raleigh Police Department psychologist Michael Teague: "It's one of the most traumatic things an officer can do -- having to deal with very complex psychological situations.

"We're really asking them to do something way beyond their calling and their training," Teague said.

Thursday marked one of three times a year that

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

holds "Death Notification" training for 150 officers across the state.

"We can join the survivors in their grief," trainer John Evans said. "But, hopefully, we aren't the ones overwhelmed by it."

The goal is to teach officers how to handle those difficult situations with compassion. They also learn what not to do.

A couple of tips officers learned were:

  • Try to take a neighbor or friend of the relative along, someone who can help support the person when he or she gets the news.
  • Never leave a person who has just received the devastating news alone.
  • "Some of the notifications were not pleasing," said MADD's Ollie Jeffers. "Some were done with just a note. Some were done by the telephone. Some were done when they were home alone."

    Even veteran officers said Thursday's training was long overdue.

    "I think it is very good training," Varner said. "I would love to see more people in our department come to this training."

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