Homicide investigations and enhancing the role of Family Liaison Officers

29 Apr 2024

Homicide investigations and enhancing the role of Family Liaison Officers featured image

Churchill Fellow and Detective Senior Constable Sharni Lawler (WA, 2019) of the Western Australia Police Force, has released her new report with insights into enhancing the Family Liaison Officer role in homicide investigations.

Family Liaison Officers are pivotal in police investigations, emphasising the necessity to engage with families of homicide victims professionally and empathetically while respecting their beliefs and traditions. Being a Family Liaison Officer is in addition to their usual day to day role as a police officer.

Sharni found that Family Liaison models utilized by the UK Metropolitan Police Service and Police Scotland the stood out as robust, well-tested, and scalable. During her Churchill Fellowship, Sharni found these models are ideally suited for implementation within the existing homicide investigation framework of the WA Police Force Homicide Squad.

Implementing these models would not only enhance the squad’s capabilities but also support the deployment requirements for mass fatality incidents, aligning with WA Police Force’s function to manage and coordinate emergencies.

Some of Sharni’s key recommendations include:

Family Liaison Officer Role Enhancement:

    • Develop specialised training mirroring the UK models.
    • Establish an application process for the Family Liaison Officer role.
    • Implement new Family Liaison Coordinator (FLC) roles.

State Family Liaison Resource Coordinator:

    • Create a central full-time position overseeing Family Liaison Officer and FLC roles.
    • Manage recruitment processes, improve resources, and provide training.

Establishment of a Casualty Bureau:Coordinate resources for mass fatality incidents.

    • Explore the implementation of the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES) case management system.

Sharni’s recommendations address victim support services, including the introduction of a dedicated 24/7 victim service response, establishment of a homicide support group, and enhancement of post-sentencing support.

Sharni’s aim is to significantly enhance operational successes beyond the Homicide Squad in Western Australia to all policing jurisdictions in Australia.

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