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New family liaison officers bring ‘greater sensitivity, compassion'

Barrie police have mostly focused on investigation, but are realizing how victims feel and how they are treated is 'incredibly important,’ says chief
A file photo of a police cruiser parked at the headquarters on Fairview Road in Barrie.

The well-being of families of victims of crimes is becoming a top priority when it comes to policing in the city.

The Barrie Police Service (BPS) announced, during last Thursday's police services board meeting at their headquarters on Fairview Road, they recently ran a family liaison course from March 21 to 28.

The course was led by instructors from the U.K. College of Policing.

Law enforcement organizations overseas have long been developing and utilizing family liaison officers as part of their dealings with victims of crime and their families.

“It has equipped our officers with enhanced skills to interact with families affected by major police investigations, with greater sensitivity and compassion,” Chief Rich Johnston said.

“As we move ahead, our designated family liaison officers will take charge of tasks such as delivering death notifications, offering ongoing support to the family, ensuring that they receive timely updates, and gathering essential information for investigative purposes,” he explained.

With policing today, Johnston said they have been mostly focused on the investigation in the past, but they are realizing how victims feel, and how they are treated, is “incredibly important.”

He noted this family liaison course is one of the first of its kind in Canada, and is being borrowed from what is being done overseas with policing.

“It has been incredibly helpful, but it also lends itself to a reduction in the experience of victimization, and how those victims have suffered through a major incident,” Johnston said.

“The system is the system, but how you feel you have been treated by it, is incredibly important,” he added.

Johnston singled out a current BPS officer who has been working with family liaison for some time now.

“I do want to specifically thank Det. Const. Deborah Howe, who has held this position, as a single officer, for the last several years," he said. “Her expertise and dedication has been invaluable."

Howe received an award last year from the force for her dedication and compassion in serving as a victim liaison officer for a tragic motor vehicle collision case.

Johnston also addressed the new family liaison officers who are now ready to take on this new task.

“I want to express my appreciation for their commitment to participating in this training," he said. “Its significance extends beyond what you may realize, and your willingness to embrace it is truly appreciated.”

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Kevin Lamb

About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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