Law Enforcement Funeral Definitions

Badge number – The badge number of an officer suffering LODD is formally retired as part of the funeral service.

Badge shroud – See Mourning Band. The period of mourning includes placing a piece of black tape or material horizontally over the center of the uniformed badge. Do not shroud a chaplain’s badge that contains a cross, a crescent, tablets, or the Star of David.

Bagpipers – Well known for serving during police funerals, bagpipers accompany and play music while the casket is being moved (in and out of the church or at the cemetery, for example) and, if desired, during the service.

Bugler – The playing of Taps is one of the final activities at the committal, usually at the cemetery. Either an on-site bugler, if one is available, or a recorded playing of taps is acceptable. If live, the bugler stands about 75 feet from the burial site.

Caisson – Traditionally a caisson, or horse-drawn military wagon, was used to transport the casket of a dignitary to the cemetery; if available, one may be used to transport the casket of a fallen officer in the case of a LODD.

Casket watch – The vigil performed by the honor guard; department members are with the casket at all times until the burial. In a formal casket watch, shifts of two officers stand watch at the head and foot of the casket. Generally reserved for a LODD.

Closed casket – In cases where the family specifies a closed casket for the viewing and/or funeral, a photo of the officer in uniform may be placed on or next to the casket, along with his uniform hat.

Color guard – Members who are formally trained in the ceremonial carrying and presentation of the national and local flags. A color guard often includes two armed persons in addition to those carrying the flags. If your department doesn’t have a trained color guard, check with the American Legion or VFW.

Crossed ladders – In a formal LODD funeral for police or firefighters, there may be two aerial trucks crossing extended ladders or booms, located at the entrance to the cemetery (or en route), with the American flag hanging from the apex of the extended ladders.

Eulogy – The formal speech (or speeches) in memory of the one who has passed; may be offered at the wake, at the funeral, or at the committal by a family member, close friend, clergy, dignitary, or department chief. It is important to consult the survivors regarding when and by whom the eulogy is given.

Firing party – Similar to a 21-gun salute; if a military-type firing party is used, they fire three volleys at a position of about 75 feet from the burial site. Because the sudden noise can be startling to the mourners, make people at the service are aware if this tribute is planned. A 21-bell salute may be substituted.

Flag – If the department has its own flag, it can be used to drape the casket at the wake or the funeral service. If a department flag is not available, a local, association, or state flag can be used. If the deceased was a veteran or died in the line of duty, an American flag may be used. The flag is folded by two pallbearers or members of the honor guard and presented to the chief or a third member, who presents it to the family at the end of the funeral service or interment.

Flyover – Department aircraft (often helicopters) perform a ceremonial flyover during the interment.

Funeral Commander – Various names (including Survivor Action Officer) are used for this person, whose role is to either act as the direct liaison with the family or supervise the team that includes the family liaison officer.

Hearse – Vehicle provided by the funeral home to carry the casket, if a caisson is not used.

Honor guard – Department members trained and ready to perform duties related the funerals of fallen officers, including casket watch, color guard, pallbearers, etc.

Honor detail – Uniformed and visiting department members who are not part of the honor guard but are present to pay tribute.

Last Radio Call – This tradition started in the Eastern U.S. and has now spread nationwide. It may be held at the end of the graveside service (or funeral), or whenever is deemed appropriate. It may be brief or include more information about the officer. Here is an example of a very brief last radio call honoring a fallen officer:
“Radio Lakewood 101…No answer Lakewood 101…Lakewood 101 out of service. Gone but not forgotten.”

An example of one with more detail:
“5-4…5-4…Calling number 5-4…This is the last call for radio number 5-4. No response from Sgt. [name]. Radio number 5-4 is out of service after 34 years and 4 months of police service. Although you are gone, you will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, our friend. The time is 10 o’clock, [date].”

LODD (line of duty death) – A death that happens as a direct and immediate or later result of an on-duty incident, e.g., a traumatic injury during an incident resulting in immediate decease, or an incident-caused injury or illness resulting in long-term complications that ultimately cause the officer’s death.

Mourning band – See Badge Shroud. A shroud of black tape or cloth covering half of an officer’s badge. Worn from the time of a sworn employee’s death (whether active or retired) until 30 days after the death.

Mourning period – Flags are lowered to half-staff until the day after funeral (or immediately after the service, or at sunset on the day of the service); when the American flag is flown at half-staff, no other flags shall be flown with it. Badges are shrouded for 30 days; dark bunting is draped on a cruiser and on the station sign or building, sometimes along with dark floral arrangements, depending on department tradition and customs.

Pallbearers – Selected by the family from among friends or department members or, if the family declines, can be selected by the department from among department members. Department members who act as pallbearers are in formal dress. Pallbearers’ duties include carrying the flag-draped casket (or the cremated remains and the flag separately and folding the flag that draped the casket. Honorary pallbearers may be uniformed members or family or friends of the deceased who are placed in an honorary position leading the casket.

Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week – An observance in the United States that pays tribute to fallen local, state, and Federal peace officers. The memorial takes place on May 15, and Police Week is the calendar week in which the memorial falls.

Procession – The line of vehicles proceeding from funeral home or church to place of interment or committal. A suggested order of vehicles:

  1. Motorcycle escort
  2. Funeral Director Chief of Police, and Chaplain
  3. Pallbearers Car 1
  4. Pallbearers Car 2
  5. Funeral Coach
  6. Family Limos
  7. Close Family Cars
  8. Dignitaries
  9. Governor
  10. Assistant Chief, Mayor
  11. Congress members
  12. Council Members
  13. Police Guild/ Lt. Association Presidents
  14. County Commissioners
  15. Senior Officers
  16. Police Procession
  17. Other Vehicles
  18. Rear Escort

(Courtesy of the Spokane Police Department’s Funeral Protocol manual [unavailable online].)

Station bunting – Black mourning drapes and, sometimes, dark floral arrangements that are placed on the outside of the station to show respect for the fallen officer.

Uniform – The department’s family liaison should ask the family if they choose to have deceased buried in uniform; if so, the department must provide a uniform to the funeral home.

Ushers – Can be chosen from among department members (10 recommended); family may request specific individuals.

Vehicle bunting – Black mourning drapes that signify a death and decorate a police cruiser participating in the procession unit.

Walk through – A ceremonial, unified tribute by uniformed members and dignitaries who, at a predetermined time, enter the wake or viewing and pass in single file by the casket, with each person pausing briefly to pay tribute.

Contributor: Jenny Mertes

See also:
Type of Law Enforcement Funerals
Law Enforcement Funerals
Additional Law Enforcement Funeral Resources
Return to Funeral Customs Overview