Police forces are now frequently appointing senior managers as Family Liaison Officer Co-ordinators and this is good practice. These officers should have received training and development in this role to ensure that are effectively prepared. The co-ordinator is responsible for administration and support functions.
FLO Co-ordinators should administer supervision of the FLO system and maintain a register of all trained FLO's including details of their diversity including ethnic or cultural origins. There should be a comprehensive list of information on their FLO experience including the types of cases they have been deployed to and any brief synopsis of specific skills utilised and enhanced such as dealing with 'split families', suspects within a 'family', families with children or of a particular ethnic background, or any unique situation.
The register should contain a list of other skills or qualifications held by the officer such as Sexual Offences Liaison trained, language or cultural skills.
The FLO Co-ordinator should act as support for SIO's. An SIO may require advice and assistance in complex cases where multiple deployments of FLO's may be required.
FLO Co-ordinators should also maintain a register of contact details of appropriate organisations or persons that may assist in Family Liaison. They need to share good practice both locally and nationally by networking and promoting the family liaison function. They need to facilitate peer group support through 'buddy' systems, monitor workloads and ensure the monitoring of mandatory attendance at welfare and occupational health units.
The ACPO National FLO Strategy is quite prescriptive in indicating that FLO Co-ordinators should meet formally with all FLO's regularly and arrangements may be made for FLO's to get together on an informal basis to provide support, share good practice and update themselves on knowledge, understanding, skills and legislation.
FLO Co-ordinators should be trained effectively and be able to:
- Describe the roles of SIO, Senior Identification Manager (SIM), FLO Co-ordinator, FLO and FLO Advisor (these may be adopted in some Police Services and role is similar to that of FLO Co-ordinator and should be trained to same level).
- Identify suitable support for families to cope with media interest and press matters.
- Identify principles involved in diffusing/de-briefing FLO's and issues of trauma risk management including therapeutic de-briefs and benefits of occupational health facilities.
- Ensure effective risk assessments are conducted and managed appropriately.
- Identify components of an effective FLO Strategy.
- Identify tactics, strategies and best practice involved in Family Liaison.
- Identify issues and factors relative to selection, training and effective deployment of FLO's.
Selection of FLO's
Family Liaison Co-ordinators may be involved with managers at a local level in identifying and selecting potential FLO's.
Those performing the role of an FLO should do so with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity with duties being carried out with the utmost sensitivity to the needs of others.
Careful selection procedures should be undertaken as to the suitability and intentions of applicants and they should be volunteers having a clear and reasoned motive for undertaking the role.
Good practice suggests that FLO's should possess the following qualities, knowledge and competencies in particular:
- Be able to display good interpersonal skills.
- Possess good communication and listening skills.
- Be confident, self-assured, flexible and non-judgemental.
- Have the ability to manage own stress, having an understanding of the principles of stress management and work alone with minimal supervision.
- Be able to make accurate records.
- Possess a good knowledge of professional support services.
- Possess a good knowledge of communities that they serve.
- Have a good knowledge of legal and procedural issues that encompass Family Liaison.
- Have proven investigative skills.
- Be trained in Investigative Interviewing in accordance with 'A Practical Guide to Investigative Interviewing' and to at least Tier 2.
- Be experienced in dealing with exhibits.
Training of FLO's
FLO's should receive effective learning and development prior to performing the role of FLO. If an FLO is deployed and they are untrained then an SIO may have to answer policy issues as to why an untrained FLO was deployed.
FLO's should receive effective learning and development, through an initial training course lasting no less than five days, and on-going refresher and specialist training annually or more frequently, and be able to, following this training:
- Explain the function of an FLO and the main responsibilities associated with the role.
- Explain the function of an SIO and the main responsibilities associated with the role.
- Explain the function of an FLO Co-ordinator and the main responsibilities associated with the role.
- Identify action that should be taken on appointment as an FLO.
- Explain the function of, purpose of, and how to complete an FLO log.
- Outline issues that should be considered in relation to identification of the family and when working with them. This to include ethnicity, cultural and lifestyle diversity.
- Possess knowledge and understanding of issues relating to road traffic law.
- Possess knowledge and understanding of issues relating to witness intimidation/harassment.
- Outline the role of the coroner and procedures in respect of coroner's courts and inquests.
- Outline procedures relating to body identification including access to, release of, organ/tissue donation and retention.
- Outline issues relating to property retrieval, retention and return.
- Outline the criminal justice system for purposes of giving information to a family, and also have a basic understanding of the value of the civil law system.
- Outline the grieving process including factors that affect it such as violent or sudden death and the criminal justice process.
- Describe the main cultural and ethnic differences in death rites.
- Outline the process of media involvement.
- Possess knowledge of and an understanding of support agencies.
- Recognise where specialist intervention may be required.
- Outline responsibilities in cases involving family representatives and Independent Advisory Groups.
- Describe exit strategies and potential problems associated with this.
- Recognise the potential impact of emotional trauma on performance including dealing with aspects likely to be of a high stress level.
- Recognise the impact of decisions made by the Crown which may adversely affect the family.
Copyright Dave Morgan