MULTI-AGENCY SUPPORTS FOR VICTIMS AND FAMILIES
Throughout the MCC it became apparent that there is a severe lack of dedicated support for victims and their families outside of the services provided by the RCMP. This reflects a larger, and problematic trend, where police are required to fill in service for those in need. Support services need to be dramatically improved and the role of police officers, when required to provide this support, needs to be more clearly and narrowly defined.
To strengthen these support services the Province of Nova Scotia can invest in existing programs such as Nova Scotia Victims Services. This organization already has a clear mandate to help victims and their families navigate the criminal justice system, however was not adequately resourced to deal with the events of the mass casualty. By expanding supports to services such as these, the Province can limit the responsibilities of police services to do so while at the same time ensuring families get the care they need, from those who are trained appropriately.
Police officers are still an integral part of support services needed for families, however their responsibilities must be more clearly defined. Through the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) program, police officers are best suited to aiding in the identification of victims and performing investigative tasks in support of the reunification of victims and families. They can also help in the sharing of timely and accurate information, in a way that protects an ongoing investigation. However, beyond this there needs to be specialized supports for families provided by civilian agencies who can provide the trauma-informed care the families need.
“Most police officers have that opportunity to deal with people, they develop some skills… [however] a family liaison is only to be a conduit for the information. To me, the family liaison is not to call insurance companies”
– Cst. Wayne Bent
Recommendation 12: The RCMP and municipal police agencies in Nova Scotia establish policies to define the role of FLOs following a mass casualty or comparable critical incidents, which is to identify victims and crime scenes, perform investigative tasks in support of the reunification of victims with family members, and facilitate the sharing of timely and accurate information about the mass casualty event and subsequent investigation with victims and families.
Recommendation 13: The RCMP and municipal police agencies in Nova Scotia establish protocols to guide the training and work of FLOs.
Recommendation 14: The RCMP and municipal police agencies review existing policies and protocols applicable to critical incidents to provide for the activation of FLOs as part of the critical incident package in mass casualty events, and to ensure that an adequate team of dedicated FLOs are trained and available in the event of a mass casualty or comparable critical incident.
Recommendation 15: The Province of Nova Scotia, in coordination with the RCMP and municipal police agencies, establish a dedicated 1-800 number for families to share and seek information about missing relatives during a mass casualty event, and provide appropriate public education about the 1-800 number.
Recommendation 16: The Province of Nova Scotia formalize its integrated support model to ensure appropriately resourced, seamless delivery of wraparound services to victims and families following a mass casualty event.