Interactions with members of law enforcement following the death of a child are often unexpected and can send a family into immediate and enduring chaos, while law enforcement professionals are confronted with the challenges of conveying compassion and preserving their own well-being.
No one is immune from random acts of violence or brutality at the hands of others - even in a peaceful society. And no other profession is exposed as directly to such daily grim realities as those in law enforcement.
Families who experience the death of a child as a result of criminal acts are often repeatedly re-traumatized when forced to confront the perpetrator's incarceration. Often, families are not included in trial strategy or negotiating plea bargains. They may read or hear about these outcomes secondhand or are forced to repeatedly testify as to why their child is worth "more time" in prison, ultimately juxtaposing the value of one child's life against another.
Beyond the hardships and injustices families repeatedly experience, maintaining a "chain of evidence" may preclude the family from saying goodbye to their child. Depending on the cause of death, some parents must re-enact the "scene of the crime," while others are treated as a criminals until proven innocent. Some families voice concern that organs will be stolen from their child's body to save the lives of others without their permission. Other questions, such as whether a family is permitted to say goodbye to the body of their child or secure keepsakes, haunt grieving families.
Law enforcement has a duty to engage families in a meaningful way, particularly when their child has been taken from them with little to no recourse. The very systems that are meant to protect society are the very systems that must have best practices, policies, and programs in place to safeguard our families from further victimization. EVERMORE is working to identify key strategies, policies, and practices that safeguard families, preserve evidence, and reduce, if not eliminate the secondary victimization that families experience following a child's death.