Family Liaison Officer
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In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, a Police Family Liaison Officer (FLO) is a role of an officer either of uniformed or plain-clothed Criminal Investigation Department (CID) role. Some companies and schools have FLOs, although primarily they are affiliated with the police department. Every territorial police force has a pool of trained FLOs, FLOs who have passed their probationary period are then allowed to fulfill the role. The FLO is assigned to the family by the Senior Investigative Officer (SIO). FLOs are usually assigned any situation where a point of contact between the family and the police is deemed essential, such as any murder investigation, or a case of a missing child. The UK Police Service has since 1999 assigned FLOs to assist families who have lost relatives in terrorist attacks or major disasters.
The FLO is key to gathering Ante Mortem data which will assist in the identification and repatriation of loved ones. They also keep the family updated on the progress of the investigation.
The key drivers for Police Family Liaison in the United Kingdom have come from the public inquiries into the death of Stephen Lawrence (report published Feb 1999) and the Marchioness disaster on the River Thames (report published 2001).
FLOs need excellent communication skills as they are often the person who reports investigative advances in the case. Sometimes the FLOs will give a statement to the media if the family do not wish to.
Some private, fee-paying schools have FLOs, although the position differs from the one in the UK Police Service, but is still based on the same guidelines of friendly and approachable staff who is the first point of contact between the authorities and the other party. British Armed Forces also have Royal Military Police trained FLOs for families of killed service men/women.
Students applying to be a trained FLO will do day to day police work in their parent department and will only be brought in as an FLO and taken off normal duties when the need arises. Students will initially have a 5-day training module to gain the necessary requirements to be an approachable and friendly FLO. Training is disciplined and structured to make sure all potential FLO's become both professional and supportively in the execution of their duties.
FLO Course Content is made up of:
- Overnight reading during the course (as FLOs can be assigned for twenty-four hours a day)
- Talks from surviving victims or their families.
- Team building exercises.
- Studying of computer presentations.
Upon completion of the first module, FLOs train further in three subjects, which may include major crime and road death. The course is made up of a total of seven days training, divided into two modules held on consecutive weeks.
In 2011 Blackstones Practical Policing series released the first book about Police Family Liaison. Police Family Liaison- Duncan McGarry MBE and Kevin Smith
Duncan McGarry MBE was UK National Police Family Liaison Advisor from 2002 until 2012. He has managed Family Liaison deployments all over the world, including 11 September attacks in New York where he led the UK Family Liaison Team that responded in Manhattan. He has also managed Police Family Liaison responses for the Australian Federal Police following the bombings in Bali 2002, the Asian tsunami (2004) and the London bombings of 2005. Duncan McGarry MBE has encouraged, trained and supported Family Liaison programmes in Sarajevo, Germany, Bermuda and Australia. He has trained Police officers in all of these locations. In 2011/2012 and 2013 Duncan McGarry MBE trained Police students in Western Australia. In 2013 he also worked with Victoria Police, New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police.
Since April 2013 Duncan McGarry MBE has been the Family Liaison Advisor to the current Hillsborough Inquiry.
^ Waldren, Michael J. (2007). Armed Police, The Police Use of Firearms since 1945. England: Sutton, 224. ISBN 0-7509-4637-7.