Police Cut Back on Escorting Funerals

It used to be common for police officers in cities big and small to escort funeral processions. Not anymore. A combination of insurance concerns, staffing and changing priorities are escorting the practice to a graveyard of its own.

USA Today wrote about the issue last week:

“Liability and staffing concerns have prompted several police departments in large metropolitan areas to stop providing the escorts. Police in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Miami, Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Los Angeles said this week they no longer provide escorts, except for police officers, firefighters or military personnel killed in battle.

“In most large cities, funeral escorts are provided by private companies that contract with funeral homes, or by the funeral homes themselves.

“The funeral cortege, a staple of mourning in the USA for generations, is rolling up against modern realities. Concerns about staffing, cost and officer safety forced the change in Gulfport, Smith says. Police were overwhelmed, sometimes working six funerals a day, and some funerals required as many as eight of the city’s 190 sworn officers — 4% of the force.

” ‘In some cases, we would have an entire section without protection,’ [says Lt. Brian Smith, head of the traffic unit in Gulfport, Miss.] A five-vehicle procession can be handled by a single officer.

“There are also liability concerns. Courts in Tennessee and Florida have found that police and funeral homes that provide escorts for funeral processions can be held liable for crashes that occur during the processions.”

The story said that a lot of towns treat the requests on a case-by-case basis. It would be interesting to see who they say “yes” to and who they turn down. It might also be interesting to learn what your state traffic laws say about when it is OK for people driving in a procession to run red lights. Generally, the lead car has to obey traffic lights. After that, though, the cars that are following can blow through the light, which is a huge safety concern for escorts.

In some communities, law enforcement will provide officers but charge for doing so. Compare rates locally. Do officers escort as a second job? How much do they earn?