How to become a family liaison officer

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The role of family liaison officer (FLO) is primarily associated with the police force. The role was formally recognised in 1993 following the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence in south London. Lawrence was a black teenager, stabbed to death while waiting for a bus.

Specialist training for police officers followed this recognition. Private schools and the armed forces also use family liaison officers as the main point of contact between families and the school or regiment.

Train as a police officer and take the professionalising investigative programme (PIP) training and courses. Police force standards state that any officer wishing to be considered for an FLO role needs to at least have PIP level 1, and those working in crime investigations need PIP level 2. The PIP level 1 training specialises in dealing with road traffic deaths and there is an option to train in handling sexual offences. The PIP level 2 course focuses on serious crime investigations and trains officers to handle murder and missing children investigations. FLOs also receive training in handling mass fatalities situations and deaths abroad.

Volunteer to be an FLO. Forces only accept applications from volunteers and you need to have a clear and well-reasoned motive for taking on this role. Only applicants with a genuine commitment to the role are considered for specialist training. Applicants should bear in mind that they will frequently find themselves in highly charged emotional situations and need to feel confident they can cope with these in a sensitive and professional manner.

Apply through a line manager to the local FLO coordinator. The line manager, or supervisor, assesses the candidate's suitability against the role's requirements. The supervisor will probably use their personal knowledge of the applicant's work and personality as well as recent formal staff appraisals. The applicant then meets with the supervisor and the FLO coordinator for an assessment. Applicants are questioned about how they handled any personal bereavement, if they have had a stress-related illness and contact with victims of crime.

Take an emotional and psychological assessment at the police welfare and counselling services. Candidates successfully passing this may progress to specialist FLO training. The procedure for acceptance is quite lengthy, but FLO coordinators need to be certain candidates are capable of taking on this demanding role, both for the officer's sake and that of the families they work with.

Complete the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) training course, after which candidates are nationally accredited FLOs. Candidates attend a pre-course information morning six weeks prior to the actual course. At this meeting, candidates are given an online learning package, a reading list and a set of questions based on this material. Candidates who fail to complete the questions prior to the course will not be admitted until they do complete them. Following the course, new FLOs undertake a workplace assessment and are allocated a mentor who accompanies them on initial cases.