CPS officers head to Barbados to train Caribbean officers in death notification practices
News is best delivered quickly and simply, says Sgt. Andy Woodward
The Calgary Police Service is the only municipal police service in Canada that formally teaches its members how to deliver the worst kind of news a family could expect to hear.
And now, officers are headed to Barbados to share their expertise.
In Calgary, all death notifications are handled by one of the roughly 150 CPS members who have passed through the special CPS training course, which was created two years ago.
"It's not a job that we have to do everyday. When we do have to do it, obviously the implications are quite exhausting," said Sgt. Andy Woodward in an interview with CBC Calgary News at 6.
Woodward created the CPS course and is one of the two sergeants headed to the Caribbean to facilitate the two-day training later this week.
Quick and simple delivery
Woodward has personally handled many death notifications and says in his experience — the news is best delivered succinctly.
"[Families] have to understand what is going on. We have to make it quick. We have to make it simple."
He begins with, "Can I come in? I have some news to tell you."
Once the family is seated, he delivers the news: "We're investigating an incident, and unfortunately, your husband, wife, son, daughter, has died in that incident," he offered as an example.
Woodward says at this point, the messengers will step back and allow the family time to process the information.
The CPS death notification training is only offered to officers who step forward and an express an interest in taking on this "never easy" job, said Woodward.
"They have to understand what they are delivering and what they are likely to expect from the family. They have to gather a lot of information before they go and knock on that door."
Woodward said as part of the grieving process, it's critical that officers cover the five W's — who, what, where, when, why. He said families who do not receive that information in a timely manner may begin to descend into denial.
The training course is funded by the Government of Canada and is part of a broader, five-year justice sector reform project in the Caribbean called IMPACT Justice.
All costs associated to travel, accommodation and related expenses, will be paid for by IMPACT Justice.
With files from CBC Calgary News at 6