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The Bad News Bearers:
The Most Difficult Assignment in Law Enforcement

(Released May 2009)

  by Emil Moldovan  


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Historical Newspapers

News Articles

  1. Coroner's investigators find gratification in tough job

    Mike Peters Greeley Tribune, Colo. McClatchy - Tribune Business News 12-31-2008

    Dec. 31--You go to the front door, knowing you have to ring the doorbell, knowing that you may ruin the person's life who answers. You know you're telling them the worst news of their life.

    And yet, it has to be done.

    Chris Robillard and George Roosevelt and Linda Hunter know what others think about their jobs: Everyone thinks it's the worst job you could have -- notifying people that they'd lost a son or a daughter, a father or a mother.

    But it's all how you look at what you do, according to Weld County coroner's investigators Robillard and Roosevelt.

    "Gratification comes from being there to help," Robillard, the veteran, summed it up.

    Roosevelt, a retired cop and a coroner's rookie, explained the job as "helping people at the absolute worst time of their life."

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

  2. Up Front: For the Parents of a Soldier Reported Killed in the Gulf, Death Takes a Holiday

    Karen S. Schneider, Nina Burleigh in Kansas; People 03-18-1991

    Thursday, Feb. 28, was, for Cecil Carpenter and his ex-wife, Ruth Dillow, much more than the first day of the rest of their lives. Cecil, a sewage-plant operator in Humboldt, Kans. (pop. 2,178), was at work, when a phone call summoned him to City Hall. About the same time, in nearby Chanute (pop. 9,488), Ruth was called from her sewing machine at the National Garment Co. and ushered to the boss's office. A grim vision -- two men in uniform -- awaited them both. ''They didn't have to say anything,'' says Ruth, her voice trembling still. ''When you see this, you expect the worst.''

    The worst was what they got. The previous day, they were informed, just two hours before a cease-fire was declared in the Persian Gulf, their youngest son, Pfc. Clayton Carpenter, 20, a tank mechanic with the 1st Cavalry Division serving near the Kuwaiti front, had been killed by a cluster bomb. He had been killed, his parents were told.

    Suddenly, for both Cecil and Ruth, the world went blank. ''It was all a haze,'' says Cecil, 53. ''I know they talked about their regrets,'' says Ruth, 46, ''but I just fell apart. 'He was dead.' Those are the only words I remember them saying.'' Separately they felt the same desperate grief. Cecil spent a sleepless night, haunted by memories too painful to bear. The next day he sought solace with his and Ruth's older son, Shane, 24, as well as with family friends. Over tears and quiet laughter, they shared stories about Clayton, a light-hearted, affectionate boy with a mischievous wit. As the hours passed, a stream of friends and neighbors came by with flowers and cake, plates of meat loaf, casseroles and home-baked bread. Sympathy cards filled the mailbox. Down the street, at Johnson's General Store, a wooden plaque -- In Memory of Clayton -- paid tribute with a red rose and black ribbons.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

  3. In memorial: Breaking bad news

    Moore, Carole, Law & Order 05-01-2003

    The paramedics thought they were doing the right thing when they told the dead man's mother he'd committed suicide. They never expected her to collapse, shattering her knee, then suffer a nervous breakdown. But she did. Later, when an autopsy determined the victim died after accidentally mixing alcohol and the pain pills he took for an injury, it was too late to take back what they'd said.

    Scott Nelson, volunteer chaplain with the Fort Wayne, IN, Police Dept. said that's just one example of how death notifications can go bad when officers don't have the proper training. He should know. The dead man was his cousin, the woman with the shattered knee, his aunt.

    Each year, thousands of law enforcement officers face the grim task of breaking the world's worst news. It's a duty most don't immediately associate with the profession. As an issue, it's fertile ground for liability.

    Police attorneys say it's not always possible to avoid litigation, but the risk can be lowered by properly educating officers and administrators. Even training won't completely banish the specter of a lawsuit, though, but recovery can be limited by ensuring officers are well-prepared.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

Historical Newspapers
  1. Death Report Delay Stirs Investigation; Wife of Missing Man Not Notified for Four Days After His Death

    Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Dec 15, 1943. pg. 1

    Abstract (Summary) Why the body of Fred A. Voorhees, 62-year-old engineer employed by the County Flood Control District, was allowed to remain at the Coroner's office for nearly four days without his wife being notified was under . . .

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  2. Viet Death Notification Follows Son's Letter

    The Hartford Courant. Hartford, Conn.: Aug 2, 1969. pg. 23

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  3. Bearers of Bad News Work 'Iffy' Area; Policies, Training Virtually Nonexistent for Notifying Kin

    Jim Stingley. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Jun 20, 1976. pg. OC1

    Abstract (Summary) The implication is that you can't develop a formal training program on how to handle death notifications. And while that may or may not be correct the implication is reflected. . .

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

Taken from ProQuest's Historical Newspapers.