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How to conduct a police funeral

Coordinating the funeral of a loved one is never an easy task. When that loved one is a police officer, especially one killed in the line-of-duty, the funeral planning becomes even more complex. Many elements go into the funeral of a police officer and it's vital for those planning the ceremony to know each necessary step in honouring their loved one.

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  1. Write the death and funeral notice as soon as all family members of the deceased police officer are notified. The notice contains important information which reporters will use to write news stories. It is crucial all interested parties receive the same information at the same time. Any unknown information, such as the viewing and funeral arrangements, may be described as pending until decided upon by the family.

  2. Organise all details of the funeral with the family of the deceased officer. Many police agencies have established protocol for an officer's funeral. Sgt. John Cooley, a certified bereavement facilitator and former funeral coordinator for the Los Angeles Police Department, encourages agencies to establish their own funeral protocol. Many decisions and details need to be arranged and Cooley stresses the importance of informing the deceased officer's family of all options for planning the funeral. Typically a police agency will have a team of officers specifically trained to plan funerals. Lt. Ken Baine of the Fairfax County Police Department, in Virginia, suggests having 40 officers serve on the funeral-planning team.

  3. Select which rituals will be included in the funeral. Typically, the funeral for a line-of-duty police funeral will include the playing of taps, draping the casket with the United States flag, presentation of the flag to the next of kin, a three-volley rifle salute, the playing of bagpipes and a police escort from the church to the grave. A helicopter flyover, the retiring of the officer's squad number and the release of white doves are other rituals sometimes seen at a police officer's funeral. The funeral coordinators should make sure the deceased officer's family knows all of these options and they also arrange for the funeral to incorporate the family's religious beliefs.

  4. Choose a master of ceremonies to give the commands during the ceremony. Bruce Wilson, of Simi Valley Emergency Services in Simi Valley, California, advises this person be someone with "drill and ceremonies expertise and a commanding voice." This person should also be very familiar with police officer funerals.

  5. Rehearse the ceremony ahead of time. Wilson advises the master of ceremonies and others involved in the funeral conduct a walk-through of the ceremony. If the funeral takes place in the afternoon then Wilson suggests conducting the dress rehearsal that morning. He says it's vital to "mark the locations of the components of the ceremonial groups so that each component will know its exact location." Careful planning should result in a seamless ceremony.

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Things You'll Need

  • Death and funeral notice
  • Funeral coordinator

About the Author

Elizabeth Howes-Stevenson became a freelance writer in 2002 and has written articles for various websites and "The Dillsburg Banner." Howes-Stevenson has taught eighth-grade English for several years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a writing concentration from Messiah College and a Master of Teaching in curriculum from Pennsylvania State University.

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