There are some ground rules to establish so that this blog makes sense for my faithful readers who may not understand how a death scene investigation works.
Rule number 1: The police do not request transport for the decedent. That responsibility falls on the death investigator.
Rule number 2: The uniformed officers that initially respond are not allowed to leave the scene until the decedent has been removed by transport.
Rule number 3: The body and anything making direct contact with it belongs to the death investigator. Everything else (furniture, walls, drug paraphernalia, trails of feces, piles of vomit, etc.) belong to the crime scene investigator.
Lesson Number 1:
I received a call from an officer who informed me that he was at the scene of a dead body, it was a Coroner’s case and I needed to call for transport at once. Okay. I began to ask the usual questions, like “What happened?”, “How was he/she found?”, “Does he/she have medical history?”, “Have you attempted to reach a doctor?” All of this information is information that the officers know they are supposed to have ready when the contact my office.
His response to my question: “This isn’t my job. It’s your job. I don’t have all day and I need to leave! So get your transport out here NOW!”
Really. Yeah I’ll get right on top of that. Normally, if the police do their job, I have enough information to guage whether or not this is in fact a case for the Medical Examiner, I’ll call for transport as I’m leaving the office. That way they’re there waiting for me when I arrive and the process goes much faster. However, since this ever-so jovial officer refused to do anything to help expedite the process, I chose to take a different approach.
I left the office and arrived at the scene approximately 30 minutes later. Greeted the officer and obtained what information he did have such as Name, Date of Birth, Last known alive time, time found and by whom. He asked me if transport was en route. Being the extremely mature and professional individual that I am, I ignored him and moved on inside the residence to examine the decendent. Working from his head all the way down to his toes, I ruled out any signs of trauma or foul play. Then I spoke with his family and learned that he did not have any medical history or a doctor. At that point in time I have to assume jurisdiction because there are no doctors available to sign his death certificate. So, in the presence of the cranky and impatient police officer I called for transport. When I got off the phone, he asked me how long it would be before transport arrived.
My response: “Per their contract they have 45 minutes to respond.”
His response: “45 minutes! I told you I was in a hurry! Why didn’t you call for transport sooner?”
My response: “Officer, surely you can’t expect me to rush my investigation just because you’re in a hurry. How would it look if this ended up being a homicide and we both missed it?”
Suffice it to say that he was seriously pissed me at me. I’m okay with that.
I responded to a scene where this unfortunately individual was having a truly bad day. He woke up decomposed after being dead for several days. It was very sad.
When I arrived both the detectives and the crime scene unit was there. This particular crime scene person has her good days and her bad. This was definitely her bad day. I waited for what seemed like an absurd amount of time for her to process the scene before I could examine the decedent. When I was done, the transport people came in and rolled the body so that I could examine the back for any holes that shouldn’t be there. Both of us then photographed the back. The body was removed from the scene but the crime scene person still had measurements to take of the scene.
Problem. I didn’t have all day to wait on her. There were other people probably waking up to find out that they had died and decomposed that needed my attention. However, I had to search the cupboards in the kitchen to make sure that this individual didn’t have any prescription medications hiding anywhere. I began opening the first cupboard door when I remembered that I needed the crime scene investigator’s permission because, after all, the scene was hers, the body was mine. She looked over at me, very frustrated that I opened this cupboard door. I explained to her that I just needed to look for drugs real quick so that I could leave.
Flabbergasted (no idea if that’s spelled right) she said “Yes, but don’t touch anything if you do find them because I have to photograph them”. (Hint. Hint. Remember that part.) I told her there were no drugs, when I was done looking and then packed up my stuff and left.
The net day I got called into the Chief Investigator’s office because both Crime Scene and the detective complained that I messed with their scene with out consent.
Me: Yeah that’s not how I remember it.
Bossman: Well next time don’t touch anything.
Me: Okey dokey (eyes rolling)
Bossman: What kind of scene was it?
Me: A decomp.
Bossman: They threw a fit over the scene of a decomp? Was it a suspicious decomp?
Me: That’s what I’m saying.
A few weeks later I ran into the same crime scene investigator at yet another decomp. Apparently we were running a special that month. She was outside of the apartment trying her best not to get all stinky. By the time I arrived she had taken all of her measurements and photographs and was waiting on my transport to arrive so she could look at the body. Since I’m typically a fast learner I asked before I went inside:
Me: Can I move things around, open doors, look for drugs, etc?
Crankybutt: Yes. I’m all done except for photographing the back.
I went inside, did my photographs, examined the body and then began looking for prescription drugs. I found them on the coffee table, inside drawers and a couple of closets. Each time I found them I called for Crankybutt to come back inside and photograph them. I wouldn’t want her to get in trouble for not photographing them. After all, that’s part of her duties.
And each time I dragged her back in there she grew more and more disgusted of having to go into that smelly room. Gee. I really feel bad for her. 🙂