Sunday, March 08, 2009

"This system is broken."

No bleep?
After two homicide victims were sent to funeral homes as natural deaths within two years, Kansas City Police Chief Jim Corwin on Monday called the system for investigating unattended home deaths “broken.”

“Everyone is deferring to someone else,” he said. “Somebody is going to have to take responsibility so this doesn’t happen again.”

Last month a 49-year-old man died and was sent to a funeral home as a natural death despite having three bullet holes, including two in his head.

In September 2007, a 77-year-old woman was sent to a funeral home as a natural death even though her jaw was broken and her throat slashed
Years ago, I remember dad saying that they weren't allowed to say someone was 'dead' over the radio even if their head was over here and their body over there; "You're not a doctor, so you can't pronounce that!" That in no way prevented them from taking note of things like, oh, knife or bullet wounds.

Jackson County’s medical examiner, Mary Dudley, would not speak specifically about the two cases while addressing the Jackson County Legislature on Monday.

She said police and paramedics perform an “initial investigation” and police call to report the situation to her office. If the death is reported as natural, her office declines jurisdiction.

“We would not have to go to the scene,” she said, adding that if her office had to send investigators to every natural death, she would need to triple her staff and boost her budget by millions of dollars.

County Legislator James Tindall called the recent misclassified deaths “a real slipup” but not the fault of the medical examiner’s office. He said the fault lay with “whoever responded.”

Police and MAST officials later Monday told a Kansas City Star reporter they did not agree with Dudley’s description of the process and did not accept Tindall’s blame.

Police said patrol officers are not experts in determining causes of death, have limited training in such matters and aren’t in a position to disrobe, move and inspect bodies.

“Our officers did nothing wrong,” Corwin said. “They followed a broken system that needs to be fixed. I’m not going to let them be thrown under the bus for something that’s been going on for years.”

Snork. How much training does it take to decide that multiple gunshot wounds in the head, or stabs and a cut throat, just might indicate a crime was committed?
White said paramedics are trained to treat each death as a possible crime scene and to limit their contact with the victim. Paramedics then turn the scene over to a patrol officer, who calls a homicide detective.

The detective usually asks the patrol officer several questions, including whether there were signs of forced entry, whether anything appeared missing or in disarray, and when the victim was last seen alive.

If the patrol officer doesn’t suspect foul play, the detective logs the call and the patrol officer calls the medical examiner.

Missouri statutes say the medical examiner “shall make a determination if further investigation is necessary, based on information provided.”

Ain't it just wonderful? Makes you wonder how many other possible homicides were never investigated because the PD provides 'limited training in such matters'?

Thanks to Clayton Cramer for taking note of this.


Mattexian said...

Hmm, it's in Kansas City, MO, but those deaths sound an awful lot like Arkancides (Ark. State Medical Examiner ruled several homicides as suicides during Gov. Clinton's term). Maybe somebody's moved since the 90s?

markm said...

Don't the paramedics have any responsibility in this? I might expect a patrol officer to only check the body from a distance, but the paramedics are going to try to take a pulse, note other signs to judge whether it's worthwhile to attempt rescuscitation, and move the body onto a stretcher. I don't see how the slashed throat could have been missed, so it's more likely that there's simply a communications failure.