Outside a court, following a murder trial, one of the relatives of the victim was complaining. Not about the dreadful circumstances of the death by stabbing of yet another Afro-British youth but rather the fact that the police had failed to counsel her – the relative – in her grief.
The same day, outside a different court, a police officer involved in another but similar case, dramatically read out a statement that the relative of another murder victim had written for the waiting journalists to hear. Observe the link between these two episodes.
Not only are the police becoming increasingly involved in the task of offering a shoulder to the distraught next-of-kin of the victims of murder and other serious crime, there is a public expectancy for them to do so, and they are getting it in the neck if they do not.
The primary function of the police is and always has been the prevention and detection of crime. Few people are unaware of the fact that, undermanned as they are, they are hard put to fulfil these roles.
They do not have the time nor are they employed to be part time pseudo psychiatrists, consoling people whose lives have been shattered by losing a loved one while, around the corner, another victim is being butchered without a hope in hell of a copper being handy to intervene . It is estimated by one constabulary (TBC) that they are now using up to 80,000 police working hours a year holding the hands and drying the eyes of members of the public suffering the trauma of the serious injury or violent death of a family member.
What started out as a ploy to infiltrate an officer into a family who may have valuable information about or indeed may be implicated in a violent crime or suspected crime – such an officer is called a FLO or Family Liaison Officer – has become a nation wide free counselling system.
FLO’s are an extremely important part of crime detection. Holding people’s hands, whispering sympathy and acting as a family spokesman are not.