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The Police Funeral

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  • The Police Funeral

    The Police Funeral
    By Sgt. Kieth Moreland

    For six of my 30 years at LAPD I got to be a part of the team which coordinated and carried out Department funerals. Our team, comprised of some very thoughtful and amazing members, dealt with the non-criminal aftermath of line-of-duty and active duty member deaths. We also assisted Department members who lost spouses and kids. Sadly, because of much experience, we could put these services together without much difficulty. It would have been nice NOT to know how, but that’s not the world we lived in.

    Although no one has asked, I want to share some thoughts about police funerals, and how I see them sometimes carried out in the new state where I now serve in my third small agency. The name of the state does not matter, as I’m sure what I’m about to say does not apply only here.

    Yes, it’s our officer, but it’s also THE family’s loved one –

    One tenant we were constantly faithful to was that no matter who we were laying to rest, he or she was the spouse, parent, child or other member of a loving family. The department was secondary. The family’s wishes were to be respected FIRST. Nothing happened without the family’s approval. If the family were to say, “No rifle salute,” then there was to be no rifle salute. If they said, “No elected officials will speak,” then no politicians would speak.

    As I once prepared to carry out an LAPD line-of-duty funeral, I took a call from one of our (union) officials. “Moreland, Attorney General _____ (running for another state office at the time) has offered to speak at the funeral.” I told him I’d check with the family and get back to him. His initial shock that I said I’d be asking someone else first, was secondary to his shock when I called him back after getting off the phone with the family and telling him, “Thanks, but no thanks, they do not want anyone speaking who did not personally know (the deceased).”

    Sadly, I watched that change sometime after I left the unit. A new police chief, an LAPD outsider, whose leadership in most matters I really liked changed policy to integrate the mayor, who’d appointed him, into department funerals. I’ve gone on to hear complaints that a former California Attorney General who achieved higher office would insert themselves into police funerals around the state, without any sincere feelings about the officer or their family, just seeking camera time.

    One Southern California Department had a practice that their honor guard would act as pall bearers, bringing the casket from coach to graveside. LAPD did not do that. How could we possibly tell a family who would carry their loved one those final few steps? For us it was always a mix of fellow officers, family members, and military squad mates. Our honor guard knew where and when to stand down.

    Church Services vs. Graveside/Police Honors –

    The relationship between mega churches and police funerals, at least for me, is another strange development. Yes, they often have large venues and more than adequate parking, but they expect much in return. Police funerals will now often include a Christian rock concert, complete with the call for salvation, at the end. Who are we focusing on at this service, a fallen officer or a Christian minister bearing a Fender Stratocaster and nursing a case of “LSD” - Lead Singer Disease? After all, I had a faith when I walked in the door. I came to show respect to a fallen officer. Should I have a desire to change churches, or want to start going to your mega church, let me come back on my personal time.

    The model I was used to was no more than one hour, or perhaps one and a half-hour at any church. Then proceed to graveside for police honors. Honors meant a final prayer, a rifle salute, the playing of taps and the folding of the Flag, with presentation to the surviving family. No more long speeches, no long drawn out favorite songs from Broadway musicals, and again no electioneering. Again, since you’re outdoors, heat and or other factors will start to affect attendees. One service we helped coordinate, but belonged to another agency, had members of the public passing out from heat exhaustion. The graveside service had gone on for two hours.

    The Vehicle Procession -

    The practice of blocking major freeways for the police funeral procession had civilian callers to our unit complaining. We were polite, we were apologetic, and we let them vent. Over time, we were able to find ways to plan routes which might have a lesser impact on major roadways and still allow police officers to participate in the traditional police procession.

    The LAPD Honors Menu -

    An LAPD officer who died in the commission of a crime got no department honors of any kind.

    An active duty LAPD officer who died of natural causes, accidentally, or by suicide (unrelated to a criminal matter) was entitled to graveside honors including rifle salute, taps, and flag-fold.

    An LAPD Officer killed in the line-of-duty was also entitled to the previous active duty package, as well as a funeral procession and helicopter (missing man formation) fly-over.

    Retiree services were limited to the Southern California area, with limited representation by two officers folding a Flag, or one officer presenting a pre-folded Flag. Exceptions were made for retirees who were recipients of the LAPD’s highest award, the Medal of Valor.

    Consulting the family is vital. If a family member was present when the deceased officer committed suicide with a firearm, for example, the rifle salute may not be desired. The family has final say.

    When a Family Says, “No, Thank You.” -

    Incredible as it seems, one day a family may tell a department they do not want any department involvement in the services for their loved one. Remember that there are some churches which do not recognize or honor the US Flag, or might take offense at the presence of firearms in the sanctuary.

    A department can hold their own memorial ceremony. It may be vital to the recovery from the incident, or grieving process of department members. You are free to plan and carry out your own. Just make sure you extend an invitation to the family or friends of the deceased.

    Personally, what have I done to make sure any service for me is not co-opted by outsiders?

    Back at LAPD we had a form (Form 1.38) which contained next-of-kin info and asked for special instructions. At one time we had a very unpopular chief of police who prompted many department members to exclude him from their services. Toward the end of my career, I excluded two employees, and a member of the command staff who I would want nowhere near my family.

    Today, still serving in another agency; I have, in my locker, an envelope which bears the words: “In the Event of My Death/Funeral Info”. It contains details of what I want done with my remains, what music I want played at any memorial, what passages I prefer to be read, which church leader I want handling my service, and who is NOT permitted/desired to speak. My eldest son also has a copy of this letter, in his strong box, 1000 miles away.
    Last edited by Kieth M.; 11-15-2018, 06:27 PM.
    "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

    Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

    Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

  • #2
    I told my wife should anything happen to me I don't want any politicians to talk, they can attend but that's it. Nor do I want anyone past the rank of lieutenant to speak unless they personal knew me and I worked for them. And I'd perfer to have the service at our church although I know it's to small to handle the crowd. HipeHopef it never comes to that though.
    I'd rather be judged by 12 rather carried by 6.

    It should be noted that any and all post that are made are based on my own thought and opinions. And are not related or implied to represent the department I work for.

    Comment


    • #3
      One of my officers was killed in the line of duty in 1996. My Captain at the time went on to teach several classes to our department, explaining about the process of planning a funeral and all the difficulties associated with it. It was nothing as in depth as Keith's, but it talked about some of the issues that were difficult to overcome.

      One of the problems was where to hold the service. The family was religious, having attended a small, 300 capacity church for many years and they were insistent that the service be held there. The problem was that the murder of the officer was so heinous that around 5,000 officers were expected to attend. Because the church was in a small residential area, the overflow of officers would extend for blocks into the community, the narrow streets and limited parking would not accommodate that many vehicles, and a gridlock of such enormity would be created that would paralyze half the city and keep the funeral procession from getting moving. It took some convincing the get the family to acquiesce to the use of a megachurch, with their pastor officiating at the new church.

      Then came the issue of seating. Because of the vast crowds, a head count was taken of family members set to attend and that number of seats were reserved in the front row of the church for them. Then, as my Captain called it, along came Aunt Minnie from Keokuk, Iowa.

      Shortly before the service, a disturbance broke out in the church involving a woman trying to get past officers to the restricted family area. It was Aunt Minnie from Keokuk, who flew in for the funeral on her own without telling anyone. She insisted she was the widow's favorite aunt, had to sit with and comfort her during the service and would not take no for an answer. Because no one knew who she was and there was no reserved seat for he, they would not admit her and she was on the verge of being arrested for PC 148. The located the widow, had her come back, thank Aunt Minnie for flying out and explain that because no one knew she was coming, there was no seat for her in front and she would have to sit with the regular mourners.

      I wish more classes like this were taught, just so everyone could get a handle on what other units within a department do. It just gives a greater understanding of overall department operations.

      Kieth, I'm glad you posted what you did. While it's just a fraction of your duties when working that detail, there are folks here who have read it and will later become managers and chiefs, and will be faced with having to plan the funeral of one of their personnel. When they do, no doubt they will reflect back on what you've written and remember key things that are important in making their officer's passing less painful and difficult for their families and loved ones.

      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

      Comment


      • #4
        RCMP Regimental Funerals are much like Kieth's plans, with the added issue of occurring Canada-wide. We have a couple of Regimental Cemeteries across Canada as well, with the most used one being within the grounds of The RCMP Academy At Depot Division in Regina Saskatchewan.

        Our members are entitled to receive a Regimental Marker (standing or flat, stone or bronze), which includes their Regimental (badge) Number, or the next-of-kin may receive a partial reimbursement of another marker if it includes reference to the deceased's RCMP #.

        RCMP line-of-duty-death funerals are MASSIVE, particularly for the Moncton 3, Mayerthorpe 4, or Shellbrook 2.

        The names of all LODD RCMP members are engraved on our Cenotaph at Depot, and tradition is we either salute (in uniform) or check-swing our arms (in mufti) when passing same. Every Division HQ across Canada now have their own Cenotaph of the members' names re LODD in the Division.
        #32936 - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 1975-10-27 / 2010-12-29
        Proud Dad of #54266 - RCMP - 2007-02-12 to date
        RCMP Veterans Association - Regina Division member
        Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada - Associate (Retired) member
        "Smile" - no!

        Comment


        • #5
          Kieth, that tradition of which you speak of at LAPD continues today. The folks in that same unit you were a part of do a great job and with a department of 13,000 (sworn and civilian) they unfortunately are very busy. It takes a special person to deal with hardship and loss on a personal level, day after day.
          Thank you to them and to you Kieth for doing a great job when you were there.

          Comment


          • #6
            I purposely left out another job we created, called "Bimbo Wrangling", when the "OTHER" significant others want time at the casket with the deceased.
            "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

            Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

            Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

            Comment


            • moparfan
              moparfan commented
              Editing a comment
              My cousin(not a cop) who was killed in a motorcycle accident HAD SEVERAL "GIRLFRIENDS" every holiday there was a new girl. We had a "HO" row, which splliee into 2 or 3 rows.

          • #7
            Originally posted by Kieth M. View Post
            I purposely left out another job we created, called "Bimbo Wrangling", when the "OTHER" significant others want time at the casket with the deceased.
            Years back I attended a funeral for an LAPD motor officer killed in the line of duty. It was an odd funeral as we were asked to bring more than one flag flown over the state capital for presentation to "family" and there was some discussion as to who was to get the letter from the Governor. I also noted it was absolutely the smallest funeral for an officer killed in the line of duty I'd even seen.

            When I inquired, I was quietly told the deceased officer had a large number of ex wives among department officers and dispatchers and it had caused so much internal discord that a small funeral was the department's way of showing its discontent with his conduct and its unintended consequences.

            It was out in the valley during the 1980s. Was that one of yours, Kieth?
            Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by L-1 View Post


              When I inquired, I was quietly told the deceased officer had a large number of ex wives among department officers and dispatchers and it had caused so much internal discord that a small funeral was the department's way of showing its discontent with his conduct and its unintended consequences.

              It was out in the valley during the 1980s. Was that one of yours, Kieth?
              Dear lord that sounds awful.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by L-1 View Post

                When I inquired, I was quietly told the deceased officer had a large number of ex wives among department officers and dispatchers and it had caused so much internal discord that a small funeral was the department's way of showing its discontent with his conduct and its unintended consequences.

                It was out in the valley during the 1980s. Was that one of yours, Kieth?
                No, I worked the unit from 1996 to 2002
                "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by L-1 View Post
                  Then came the issue of seating. Because of the vast crowds, a head count was taken of family members set to attend and that number of seats were reserved in the front row of the church for them. Then, as my Captain called it, along came Aunt Minnie from Keokuk, Iowa.
                  Do you one better. We had our plans set in stone and everything was ready to go. We'd been dealing with "Mom & Dad", when suddenly "Dad & Mom" called FROM MEXICO. Seems our deceased officer never bothered to list his REAL father, his mother's ex, who was living in Mexico for the past 15 years. We had to arrange visas, housing and transportation for another six-to-eight people, who we had no idea existed, right up until the moment we asked the mom..."Oh, yes, that's his real dad, my husband is his step-father"
                  "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                  Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                  Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    RCMP Regimental Funerals are much like Kieth's plans, with the added issue of occurring Canada-wide. We have a couple of Regimental Cemeteries across Canada as well, with the most used one being within the grounds of The RCMP Academy At Depot Division in Regina Saskatchewan.

                    Our members are entitled to receive a Regimental Marker (standing or flat, stone or bronze), which includes their Regimental (badge) Number, or the next-of-kin may receive a partial reimbursement of another marker if it includes reference to the deceased's RCMP #.

                    RCMP line-of-duty-death funerals are MASSIVE, particularly for the Moncton 3, Mayerthorpe 4, or Shellbrook 2.

                    The names of all LODD RCMP members are engraved on our Cenotaph at Depot, and tradition is we either salute (in uniform) or check-swing our arms (in mufti) when passing same. Every Division HQ across Canada now have their own Cenotaph of the members' names re LODD in the Division.
                    #32936 - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 1975-10-27 / 2010-12-29
                    Proud Dad of #54266 - RCMP - 2007-02-12 to date
                    RCMP Veterans Association - Regina Division member
                    Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada - Associate (Retired) member
                    "Smile" - no!

                    Comment

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