Communicating Death: How Police Announce Sad News and Investigate Fatal Events

2023-12-01 16:01:00

Whether following a road accident, following a violent event, naturally or otherwise, the deaths of people must sometimes be reported to the families and loved ones of the deceased, but how do the police forces communicate such sad news? We asked the question to Philippe Borza, head of the Aiseau-Presles/Châtelet/Farciennes police zone. “A death is never easy to announce to loved ones. Even if there are procedures in place, it is always a very complicated moment. We learn certain things like not making mistakes while taking it as a joke. There is no room for humor. Depending on the area, some are “trained” to announce the sad news. They are accompanied by police assistance to the victims. These are psychologists who help us in managing the announcement. Everyone reacts differently but often we find common phases such as denial then the shock itself. ”

Even with the greatest kindness, announcing someone’s death is also a test for the person announcing it. “We never get used to it, we can develop scenarios, it only takes one element to change and we are lost but despite everything we have to say it. What is also difficult is appropriation. The person announcing may also have a child of the same age, or a brother or sister of the same name. It’s not obvious at all. We are trained but never seasoned. ”

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If announcing the death of someone who is easily identifiable because there are his papers in the car, his identity card on him or any other document allowing rapid identification, it may be necessary to carry out investigations to identify a person. “It is enough for a person to die in an area other than where they are domiciled or for them not to be in possession of identity documents. We must carry out an investigation and sometimes have the assistance of the courts to place announcements. This takes time which we try to reduce as much as possible. In other cases, when it concerns people who have died following a catastrophe or disaster: a train accident or a fire for example, we call on the competent DVI for this type of identification. Sometimes you have to do with DNA or dental characteristics. We must also think about presenting and returning the bodies to loved ones in the best conditions. ”

Announcing a death, although it is never easy, is sometimes an opportunity to move forward in an investigation in the event of a suspicious death or not. “Even if everyone reacts differently to the news of a death, “funny feelings” can sometimes be triggered. Of course sometimes we have just learned of someone’s death and sometimes an investigation has not yet been opened so there is no suspect at this stage. But despite everything, we may notice that something is wrong in the reaction which may give rise to suspicion. By investigating, it has already happened that the murderer is the person who was told of the death of their loved one. ”

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