After 21 years as a police officer, Staff Sgt. Richard Lane says there’s one aspect that’s by far the worst: Telling family members their loved one is dead.

“There are ones I still remember to this day and were very upsetting,” he said.

“To knock on someone’s door and change their lives forever, yeah, that’s probably one of the hardest things we have to do.”

Lane, head of the major crime unit in HRM, along with former homicide detective Staff Sgt. Tony Reeves, talked with Metro Thursday about life in the homicide unit. There are 14 officers dedicated to solving murders in HRM — an integrated unit made up from Halifax Regional Police and Halifax RCMP.

Lane said the first 24 to 72 hours after a homicide are intense.

“That’s when everything’s fresh and your witnesses are willing to talk and people haven’t been intimidated,” he said.

Most often, police have a good idea of a murder suspect during that time, but proving it is more difficult.

“Definitely there is pressure to solve these crimes,” Lane said. “This is the death of somebody and the worst thing that can happen to a family.”

But sometimes it takes time to make an arrest. Five years after the death of school teacher Paula Gallant, police arrested her husband, Jason MacRae, in August and charged him with first-degree murder.

“Sometimes the time itself is a benefit to the investigation,” said Lane, adding there is always hope for older cases.