MADD Virginia Honors Fairfax County P.D. Detective J.J. Banachoski

At MADD, we often express our appreciation of law enforcement for their impaired driving enforcement and prevention efforts. But recently at a Victim Impact Panel, we were reminded of another reason to be appreciative: their service in notifying families of the loss of a loved one. This past month here in Virginia, we became aware that a number of our victim volunteers received notification of their loved one’s death by the same Fairfax County Police Officer, Detective J.J. Banachoski.

Prior to his retirement 2 years ago, Detective Banachoski served with the Fairfax County Police Department for 25.5 years. For 18 of those years, he was a detective assigned to the Crash Reconstruction Unit. Part of his duties with the Unit included delivering death notifications for all types of traffic fatalities, not just those resulting from impaired driving, and he estimates that he was involved with over 200 notifications in his 18 years of service. He acknowledged loving the challenge of piecing together the details of a crash, often in circumstances in which there were no witnesses, or the witnesses provided conflicting testimony. He shared that his mentor had a saying which he took to heart, “We speak for those who can no longer tell what happened.”

Our volunteers spoke appreciatively of the manner in which Detective Banachoski told them the unimaginable.  Banachoski said he received no formal death notification training and believes a compassionate and honest approach are his strong points.

When asked about the impact of delivering death notifications for 18 years, Banachoski said he can still recall many of the cases and people’s reactions to the loss of their loved one.  He reflects that dealing with tragedy may have made him more matter of fact in discussing tragedy, and says that while he may not be able to be empathetic, he can be sympathetic. “My experience has taught me that we all share pain and only react differently to the unexpected loss.” He credits his wife with being a great listener and helping him cope with the difficulty of that job.

We’d like to express our profound gratitude to Detective Banachoski and all law enforcement officers who deliver death notifications, for their service and compassion.

MADD VA will be scheduling Death Notification trainings in Virginia this summer. To be notified of the date(s) when they are set, contact emily.barker@madd.org, MADD VA Victim Services Specialist.