Preparing officers for a life altering task

The aftermath of a drunk driving crash creates a ripple effect.  It doesn’t just impact the victim or survivor, but it can also cause overwhelming grief, legal and medical issues for loved ones who are close to the situation. Law enforcement officers are among the first people encountered by victims and survivors after a traumatic incident, like a drunk driving crash.

Unfortunately, officers are sometimes ill-equipped for this life-changing duty.  A 2001 University of Florida study found that 41 percent of death notifiers had received neither classroom nor experiential training in death notification, although 70 percent had performed at least one notification.  As a result, most victims report that this type of early interaction added grief to their experience, rather than making it easier. 

MADD works extensively with law enforcement to make sure they are prepared for those vital early interactions with someone in grief, including:

  • In-person death notification trainings that last for about five hours and help give officers best practices to use as tools during these sensitive times.
  • Wallet/pocket cards for officers to carry that help refer victims and survivors of drunk driving to MADD for assistance.
  • Law enforcement-specific sessions on death notification basics at MADD’s National Conference. 

We are also working on an online course to launch by October 2012 that helps train officers, first responders, social workers and medical personnel on how to compassionately deliver death notifications.  This course will be accredited as continuing education for first responders and other medical personnel.

You can read more about the importance of proper death notifications and victims’ experiences, good and bad, in this USA Today article