Author

About the Author
Darren is a 30 year veteran of law enforcement and criminal investigations. He currently serves as an investigator for the Crawford County Missouri coroner’s office. He holds credentials as an instructor for the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy, has served as president of the Missouri Medical Examiners and Coroners Association, and is certified and credentialed in numerous fields of investigation. He holds the position of lead instructor and facilitator for the Coroner Talk™ community as he speaks and writes in the area of death investigation and scene management.

The Suicide Plan – Investigating Planned Suicides Pt1

SuicideThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2013 (the most recent year for which full data are available), 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 12.8 minutes.   With those totals, we are all bound to be involved in investigating suicides.  Suicides can be acute, meaning short term or spur of the moment final decision, or a well planned and risk assessed  action.  In this episode of Coroner Talk™ we are going to look at the pros, if there be any, and the cons of planned suicide.

Featured in this weeks show is a PBS production of  Frontline that deals with the topic of a well planned suicide and the legal and moral implication that accompany such a decision.  Regardless of where you stand on the topic, this episode will start you thinking of the other side.

The Assisted Suicide Debate

Since Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in 1997, more than 700 people have taken their lives with prescribed medication — including Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with an incurable brain tumor, who ended her life earlier this month.

Advocates of assisted-suicide laws believe that mentally competent people who are suffering and have no chance of long-term survival, should have the right to die if and when they choose. If people are have the right to refuse life-saving treatments, they argue, they should also have the freedom to choose to end their own lives.

Opponents say that such laws devalue human life. Medical prognoses are often inaccurate, they note — meaning people who have been told they will soon die sometimes live for many months or even years longer. They also argue that seriously ill people often suffer from undiagnosed depression or other mental illnesses that can impair their ability to make an informed decision.

At the latest event from Intelligence Squared U.S., two teams addressed these questions while debating the motion, “Legalize Assisted Suicide.”

Before the debate, the audience at the Kaufman Music Center in New York was 65 percent in favor of the motion and 10 percent against, with 25 percent undecided. After the debate, 67 percent favored the motion, with 22 percent against, making the team arguing against the motion the winner of this debate.

http://www.npr.org/2014/11/20/365509889/debate-should-physician-assisted-suicide-be-legal

The Suicide Plan – Investigating Planned Suicide

Investigators are offered a hard road when it comes to investigating a planned suicide when it is found that family or friends may have assisted in some manner, regardless of the extent of the that assistance.  Even providing a cool drink of water to wash down the pills that will end life can be enough in some states to charge a person with assistance.  But where, as investigators, do we stand on the issue.  Some investigators are only providing cause and manner of death determinations, which can be clouded by the assistance issue. While other investigators are charged with the task  of deciding the criminal aspect of the assistance rendered.

In part two of this issue we will take a deep dive into the debate that will most assuredly muddy up the waters a bit.  That is next episode on Coroner Talk™..

suicide-prevention-lifeline-logo

Dr. Judy Melinek – Working Stiff

Melinek-Slide_0A   forensic pathologist can not work in a vacuum, they must have critical information gathered at the scene by qualified investigators. It is only with this information and the results of the autopsy that a ruling can be made.  It is often that a ruling will be delayed, or no determination made at all, without this information and investigation by the medicolegal investigators.

In this episode I talk with Dr. Judy Melinek, and forensic pathologist working with the Alameda County Coroners Office and and private consultant at  Pathology Expert .com.   We discuss what investigators need to provide to a pathologist to help in the determination of cause and manner of death.  We also discuss her role in the 9/11 attacks as she was working in New York City at the time and witnessed the first plane hit.

Dr. Melinek, along with her husband TJ – wrote the book Working Stiff that chronicle her first two years as a forensic pathologist  and her work in New York City Medical Examiners Office during the 9/11 attacks.

 

Working-stiffThe fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy’s two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America’s most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies—and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like CSI and Law & Order to reveal the secret story of the real morgue.

About the Authors

tj-mitchell-dr-judy-melinekJudy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband. Currently, Dr. Melinek is an Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF, and works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland. She also travels nationally and internationally to lecture on anatomic and forensic pathology and she has been consulted as a forensic expert in many high-profile legal cases, as well as for the television shows E.R. and Mythbusters.

T.J. Mitchell, her husband, graduated with an English degree from Harvard and has worked as a screenwriter’s assistant and script editor since 1991. He is a writer and stay-at-home Dad raising their three children in San Francisco. Working Stiff is his first book.

Interviewing Children of Homicide

Interviewing Children
GENERALLY ACCEPTED GUIDELINES

1. Avoid bias; explore alternative hypotheses or explanations

The most important thing for a child interviewer to do to obtain a reliable statement from the child is to have no preconceived belief as to what happened. The approach should be one of hypothesis-testing. Unfortunately, many interviewers try to get the child to say things which confirm what they already think happened. The importance of avoiding bias and taking a hypothesis-testing approach is basic and is specifically addressed by most of the articles that discuss interviewing guidelines. For example, Ceci and Bruck (2) note that “Interviewer bias influences the entire architecture of interviews and is revealed through a number of different component features that are highly suggestive” (p. 80). If the interviewer has a preconceived belief about what happened, he or she is likely to ask questions and get answers that confirm this belief. A number of classic studies in social psychology demonstrate the powerful effect of preconceived beliefs on information an interviewer or experimenter gets (30, 31, 32). Several recent studies show the effects of interviewer bias on the accuracy of statements made by children in interviews (2, 33, 34) as well as in other situations
(35).

To avoid biasing the interview, the interviewer must explore alternative hypotheses. One is that the abuse occurred as alleged. But there are other possibilities. In general, alternative hypotheses often include the following (these are not exhaustive, but are offered as examples):

The allegations are basically valid, but the child has substituted a different person for the perpetrator.

Some of the allegations are valid, but the child has invented or been influenced to make additional allegations that are false.

  •  The child misperceived innocuous or inappropriate but non-abusive behaviors as sexual abuse.
  •  The child has been influenced or pressured to make a completely false allegation to serve the needs of someone else.
  •  The child has made a false allegation for personal motives of revenge, gain, to show off to a peer, or to help someone else.
  •  The child has fantasized the allegations, possibly because of psychological problems.
  •  The child initially made up the allegations but has talked to several people about them and they have now become real to the child.
  • The child saw pornographic magazines and pictures, saw a pornographic movie, or observed adults engaged in sexual activities, and this contributed to the allegations she later made.
  •  The child engaged in sex play with peers or siblings, and then accused an adult.
  • The child was questioned repeatedly by adults who believed the child had been abused, and the child began making statements to please the adult, who then reinforced the child with attention or praise.
2. Videotape (or at least audiotape) all investigatory interviews

There is a strong consensus that forensic interviews of child witnesses should be videotaped, or at least audiotaped. Only electronic recording can ensure an accurate record of the interview. Without a tape, there is no way to know just what was said by the interviewer to elicit a response from the child. There is no way to know just what the child said. There is no way to determine whether the child’s statements are the result of a leading, coercive, and contaminating interview rather than the child’s account from his or her own memory and personal knowledge. There are no good reasons for not taping an investigatory interview of a child witness and many compelling reasons for doing so (36-41).

Even experienced interviewers are unable to accurately recall their specific, verbatim questions and the child’s answers that are necessary for evaluating an interview (42). This includes times when they take verbatim notes during the interview (38). Reports based upon the recollections of interviewers are likely to be inaccurate and underestimate the degree to which they used closed and leading questions as opposed to open-ended prompts. When there are no tapes of an interview, there is no way to know the extent to which a child’s statements are in response to leading and suggestive questioning. If it is impossible to videotape the interview (for example. a police officer must take a statement at the child’s house), it can be easily audiotaped.

3. Interview the child alone

The child should be interviewed alone unless he or she is too young to separate from the parent. A parent or other supportive adult sitting in on the interview can either intentionally or inadvertently cue the child and contaminate the interview. The only exception to this is when a very young child refuses to separate from a parent. But this is not desirable and in such cases the parent should be cautioned not to participate in the interview or cue the child in any way. Also, following the rapport phase of the interview, if the child seems comfortable, the interviewer can ask the child if the parent can leave and wait nearby.

There should also be only one interviewer. To the extent that the child perceives pressure to say what she thinks the interviewer expects to hear, more than one interviewer will increase this perceived pressure. Also, children are more likely to go along with what they believe an interviewer expects if the interviewer is identified as an authority figure (2). I have seen tapes of interviews with as many as four or five adults present in the interview, including police officers in uniform wearing guns. If it is considered necessary for a team to be jointly involved in the interview (such as a social worker from child protective services and a police officer), the team can discuss in advance what topics need to be addressed and then only one person interview the child. The other person can observe the interview through a one-way glass mirror and there can be an opportunity to consult before the interview is over.

4. Have a rapport building phase at the beginning

There should be a rapport building phase at the beginning of the interview. One purpose of this part of the interview is to talk about neutral topics and help the child become more comfortable. But it is also to encourage and teach the child to give information to the interviewer. The interviewer should avoid asking a series of closed and forced choice questions during this phase of the interview.

Such questions tell the child that this is like school where there are right and wrong answers and the teacher knows the right answer and is testing the child to see if the child also knows. Adults routinely test children by asking them questions to which the adult already knows the answer and children are not accustomed to being questioned by authoritative adults when only they have the information and the adult does not.

But in investigative interviews, the child is the source of novel information. Therefore the interviewer must let the child know from the beginning that only he or she has the answers. The interviewer must explain the child’s role, motivate the child to give detailed and complete accounts of events they have experienced, emphasize the importance of telling only about true events that actually happened, and encourage the child to correct inaccurate statements made by the interviewers (43). This is best accomplished by beginning the interview with open questions where the interviewer clearly does not have the information.

5. Have a practice interview

During the rapport phase there should be one or more practice interviews where the child is asked open questions about neutral topics, such their last birthday party or the first day of school, and encouraged to give detailed narrative answers. These practice interviews allow the interviewer to gauge the child’s memory and ability to describe past events. They also allow the child to practice giving information in response to open, nonleading questions. Research indicates that interviewers get better information from children when they begin with such practice interviews (43). Children who have the opportunity to practice giving lengthy narrative responses to open-ended questions in the rapport phase continue this behavior in the substantive part of the
interview.

6. Provide ground rules

Young children have a tendency to try to answer any question an adult asks and may provide answers to unanswerable questions such as “Is milk bigger than water?” or “Is red heavier than yellow?” (44). Therefore, child interviews should begin with ground rules that include telling the child the interviewer doesn’t know the answers and that it is all right for the child to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember,” and that the child should correct the interviewer if she says something wrong. It helps if the interviewer practices the ground rules by asking an unanswerable question (e.g., “What is the name of my cat?”) and praising the child when he or she says, “I don’t know.” The interviewer can also deliberately get information wrong (e.g., “You said you have a younger sister and an older brother” when the child has two brothers) and then reinforce the child for correcting the interviewer.

Examples of ground rules include:

  • I wasn’t there and I don’t know what happened. Please tell me everything you can remember.
  • It’s all right to say “I don’t know” if you don’t know the answer: Please don’t guess.
  •  If you cannot remember everything, that’s okay. It’s all right to say “I don’t remember.”
  • If I misunderstand something you say, please tell me. I want to understand everything you say.
  •  If I get something wrong, please correct me.
  • It’s important to only talk: about things that really happened. We don’t talk about make believe or pretend.
  • If you don’t understand something I say, please tell me and I will try to say it using different words.
7. Ask open questions and encourage a free narrative from the child

The most reliable and forensically useful information from children is obtained by encouraging the child to give a free narrative of the alleged events and by asking a series of open, nonleading questions (e.g., who?, what?, when?) or asking the child to “tell me everything you remember about …” The research evidence is clear: freely recalled information is more likely to be accurate than information obtained in response to yes/no and forced choice questions. Consequently, all of the articles discussing guidelines for child forensic interviews make this recommendation. Even children as young as four can provide substantial amounts of forensically relevant information in response to free-recall prompts (45). This means that interviewers do not have to rely on forced choice and yes/no questions even with preschoolers.

The substantive portion of the interview should be also introduced in as open a way as possible. The NICDH investigative interview protocol gives detailed examples of how to progressively phrase such beginning questions (16) and how to continue the interview using open-ended prompts. Some examples of how to use open-ended probes to introduce the topic of the interview include:

  • Do you know why you came here to talk to me today?
  • Now that I know you a little better, I want to talk about why you are here today.
  • Tell me why you came to talk to me.
  • I understand some things have been happening in your family. Tell me about them.

Whenever the child gives response that is on track, the interviewer should encourage a narrative response by asking, “Tell me everything you can remember about that.” When the child pauses, the interviewer should follow up with additional open-ended prompts such as, “And then what happened?,” “Tell me more about that.” Such open questions should constitute as much of the questioning as possible. Interviewers can ask the child to repeat something that wasn’t clear or encourage the child to continue the narrative by repeating a phrase, but they should never interrupt the child to redirect the interview or to ask specific questions. Only when it is clear that the child is not going to provide additional information in response to the open-ended prompts should the interviewer turn to specific questions.

8. Pair specific questions with opened-ended prompts

After obtaining as much information as possible with open questions, interviewers may need to ask specific questions to address important areas that have not been mentioned by the child. When this is necessary, it should be later in the interview; such questions should not be asked at the beginning. But it is a common error for interviewers to ask specific questions rather than encouraging narrative responses (23, 46, 47). When a more specific question must later be asked, it should be paired with an open question. For example, if the child is asked if his clothes were on or off and says, “Off,” the interviewer could then say, “Tell me everything about how they got off” If the interviewer asks if anything happened in the bedroom and the child says, “Yes” the interviewer can then say, “Tell me everything that happened there.” The risk of getting inaccurate information from such closed questions can be minimized if they are paired with an open-ended prompt.

9. Avoid pressure, coercion, suggestion through giving the child information, asking leading questions, and repeating questions

Although open-ended questions can be repeated without contaminating the child’s statements, interviewers should avoid repeating specific, closed, and yes-no questions. When children are asked the same question repeatedly, they can change their answers to conform to what they think the interviewer wants to hear (2, 3, 48).

Interviewers should never ask suggestive questions which provide information about allegations. The general principle is that the interviewer shouldn’t ask a question about something unless the child has already brought it up. Obviously, pressure and coercion should never be used. All the guidelines warn against this. But in practice, many interviews are leading and suggestive (see 2 and 49 for transcripts of suggestive interviews). Even with the attention paid to the importance of avoiding contaminating interviewing techniques, this remains a problem (23). I regularly review videotapes that include closed, forced choice, and leading and suggestive questions with few open-ended prompts.

10. Avoid play, fantasy, and imagining

The interviewer should avoid using such terms as “pretend” or “imagine” or engage in imaginative play as part of the interview. False disclosures of abuse can sometimes occur in response to techniques involving fantasy, imagery, visualization and reenactment during play (24). Guided imagery techniques can be particularly suggestive and can lead to the child confusing an imagined event for something that really happened. Techniques such as having puppets talk to each other, as were used in the McMartin preschool case, should be avoided.

11. Avoid reinforcing specific responses

Social reinforcement can have a powerful effect on behavior and interviewers should never selectively reinforce specific responses. Research shows that such reinforcement during interviews can readily elicit false allegations of wrongdoing from children (50, 51). Wood and Garven (25) note that several types of interviewer behavior are forms of selective reinforcement or punishment that can contaminate interviews, including:

  • Praising the child for making allegations
  • Implying that the child is being helpful or showing intelligence by making allegations
  • Criticizing the child’s statements by suggesting they are wrong or inadequate
  • Giving tangible rewards such as food following disclosures

Limiting the child’s mobility (e.g., letting the child go to the bathroom or terminating the interview) until the child has talked about the topic of interest to the interviewer
Although it is important to create a warm and supportive environment, all such selective reinforcement of the child’s responses must be carefully avoided.

CONTROVERSIAL TECHNIQUES

There is no research supporting the use of anatomical drawings where body parts are named, and these are not generally recommended as part of an interview protocol. There is an indication that such drawings may decrease the reliability of the information obtained (52). When used at the beginning of the interview, the anatomical drawings may communicate to the child that what is to be discussed is body parts and touching. They may confuse very young children who don’t understand that a drawing of a naked body has an abstract relationship to an actual person (53). The drawings should not be necessary with older children. I recently reviewed a taped interview in which the interviewer showed anatomical drawings to a 13-year-old girl of normal intelligence and then asked if she were a girl or a boy. Since interviewers should encourage a child to perform at as a mature and effective level as possible, beginning the interview by asking a teenager such a question detracts from the serious purpose of the interview.

There are similar criticisms about discussions of good touch / bad touch. Guidelines on how to conduct forensic interviews of children do not mention beginning the interview with good touch – bad touch discussions. Wood, McClure, and Birch (26) observe that agencies continue to use the good touch / bad touch discussion for no particular reason other than they had been doing it for years. I continue to see good touch / bad touch discussions in tapes I review. I am unaware of any research supporting this procedure. What it risks is telling the child from the beginning that the purpose of the interview is to talk about genital touching.

Most guidelines do not recommend using anatomical dolls. The few that do caution how they are to be used (e.g., 7, 9, 10, 27, 28). Yuille, et al., (28) note that they should be used only as a last resort and Carnes et al. (9) state that they should be used with “caution” and “only when absolutely needed.” But there are often problems with the way the dolls are used by practitioners in the field (54). In addition, very young children cannot use dolls as symbols or representations for themselves, and make more errors when using the dolls (55). Wolfner, Faust, and Dawes (56) critique the dolls and their failure to add incremental validity to the interview. Many professionals oppose their use. The conclusion, therefore, is that the dolls are controversial and not generally accepted in the scientific community (57, 58). There is no evidence that they add to the completeness and accuracy of the information obtained and they are susceptible to increasing the suggestiveness of the interview.

INTERVIEWS IN THE FIELD

There is now a clear consensus in the professional community as to how children should be interviewed. But this hasn’t always translated to workers in the field. For example, estimates of the frequency of the use of leading questions that introduce information to children vary from 13% to 60% with the majority in the 40% to 50% range (59).

In 1990 Underwager and Wakefield (49) reported on an analysis of 36 actual cases involving 150 interviews and 62 interviewers. The interviewers didn’t encourage free recall; instead they relied on closed questions, pressure, and suggestion and they appeared to be trying to substantiate abuse they had already concluded was real.

In 1996 Warren et al. (23) looked at 42 transcripts of sexual abuse interviews conducted by child protective services personnel and found that the interviewers failed to follow practices recommended by researchers on children’s testimony. The interviewers rarely conducted practice interviews, seldom provided ground rules, and failed to begin with open-ended questions, instead relying on specific, yes-no questions throughout. They frequently introduced new material not previously disclosed by the children. That same year Lamb et al. (60) reported on their examination of 22 audiotaped interviews from 12 field interviewers in Israel. Most questions were directive rather than open-ended, and many were leading.

In 2004 Gilstrap (59) examined 80 interviews conducted by 41 field interviewers with 40 children ages 3 to 7 about staged events. She compared the behavior of these real world interviewers to the types of questions studied in research settings. She found that the field interviewers asked a substantial amount of leading questions (42%) and that approximately one-third of the leading questions introduced inaccurate information. The field interviewers repeated questions 12% of the time and introduced novel information 18% of the time.

Saywitz and Geiselman (61) observe that interviewing guidelines designed to maximize the completeness of children’s reports are not always based on the realities of work conditions on the front lines. A problem for workers in the field is that although young children’s spontaneous descriptions of past events are accurate, their descriptions are often too incomplete to be useful. Important legal decisions cannot be made without more information. Although field workers can gather additional information with more questions, their methods risk undermining the accuracy of the children’s statements. Saywitz and Geiselman have therefore developed approaches specifically geared to field workers to elicit more complete and consistent accounts from children. These approaches, narrative elaboration, and cognitive interviewing, are based on research in their laboratories and appear to be a promising way for field interviewers to get more complete but accurate information from young children. Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have also reported on field studies of their interview protocol (NICHD protocol) which demonstrate that with their protocol even young children can provide a substantial amount of forensically relevant and accurate information in response to free-recall prompts (12, 16, 45, 46, 47).

CONCLUSIONS

Research over the last several years dramatically demonstrates the importance of properly interviewing child witnesses. Interviewers with preexisting biases who ask leading, suggestive, questions risk confirming their beliefs and getting false information. There is now a clear consensus in the scientific community about how children must be interviewed in order to get accurate, uncontaminated, forensically useful information. Unfortunately, field interviewers aren’t using these techniques. Instead, they readily slip into undesirable behaviors that risk compromising the integrity of the interview and the reliability of the information the child gives them.

Article Reprint:

Guidelines on Investigatory Interviewing of Children: What is the Consensus in the Scientific Community?

Hollida Wakefield*

American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 24(3), 57-74

 

Workplace Bullying

workplace_bullying

 

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Its national prevalence was assessed. Read the Survey results.

Workplace Bullying…

  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
  • Requires consequences for the targeted individual
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.

Please know two things:

Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results. You may not be the first person to have noticed that you were bullied. Check to see how many of these indicators match yours.

Remember, you did not cause bullying to happen. We’ve broken down the major reasons why bullies bully. The primary reason bullying occurs so frequently in workplaces is that bullying is not yet illegal. Bullying is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination on the job.

Should you confront the bully? If you could have, you would have. Instead, use the WBI-suggested 3-Step Method. Remember, put your health first. Don’t believe the lies told about you. Spend time with loved ones and friends. At times of debilitating stress like this, you must not be isolated. Isolation will only make the stress worse.

As we said, to date, no U.S. state has passed an anti-bullying law for the workplace.

* This article is a re-print if excerpts from  Workplace Bullying Institute   To read full article and see many more resources click over to there site.Anita Brook-corner talk-secondary stress

Todays guest is Anita Brooks  of anitabrooks.com 

 


anita brooks asphyxia aurora auto-erotic auto-erotica batmanburnout child abuse colorado Colorado Coroners communication compassion  compassion fatigue corone rcrime scene crime scene photography csidarren dake death death investigation denver deputy detective ebola emergency care field fire firefighterfire fighter fire fighter training  getting through what you can’t get overmedical examiner murderparamedic  police police training PTSD scene command sheriffshooting sids suicidesymptoms of compassion fatiguetheater trauma victims who is at risk for compassion fatigue

Blood Pattern Analysis

Blood_SpatterBecause blood behaves according to certain scientific principles, trained bloodstain pattern analysts can examine the blood evidence left behind and draw conclusions as to how the blood may have been shed. From what may appear to be a random distribution of bloodstains at a crime scene, analysts can categorize the stains by gathering information from spatter patterns, transfers, voids and other marks that assist investigators in recreating the sequence of events that occurred after bloodshed. This form of physical evidence requires the analyst to recognize and interpret patterns to determine how those patterns were created.

Bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA) is the interpretation of bloodstains at a crime scene in order to recreate the actions that caused the bloodshed. Analysts examine the size, shape, distribution and location of the bloodstains to form opinions about what did or did not happen.

BPA uses principles of biology (behavior of blood), physics (cohesion, capillary action and velocity) and mathematics (geometry, distance, and angle) to assist investigators in answering questions such as:

  • Where did the blood come from?
  • What caused the wounds?
  • From what direction was the victim wounded?
  • How were the victim(s) and perpetrator(s) positioned?
  • What movements were made after the bloodshed?
  • How many potential perpetrators were present?
  • Does the bloodstain evidence support or refute witness statements?

Why and when is bloodstain pattern analysis used?

Bloodstain evidence is most often associated with violent acts such as assault, homicide, abduction, suicide or even vehicular accidents. Analyzing the size, shape, distribution, overall appearance and location of bloodstains at a crime scene helps investigators by answering basic questions including:

  • What occurred?
  • Where did the events occur?
  • Approximately when and in what sequence?
  • Who was there? Where were they in relation to each other?
  • What did not occur?

    One of the most important functions of bloodstain pattern analysis is to support or corroborate witness statements and laboratory and post-mortem findings. For example, if the medical examiner determines the cause of death is blunt force trauma to the victim’s head, the pattern and volume of blood spatter should be consistent with a blunt instrument striking the victim one or more times on the head. Conversely, if the spatter resembles that seen in expirated blood spray, the analyst will check the medical examiner or pathologist reports for injuries that can cause the presence of blood in the nose, throat or respiratory system of the victim. If blood is not reported in these locations, the analyst may be able to exclude expiration as the possible cause of that spatter pattern..

READ MORE AND GET YOU FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD

Free eBook –  Download here: 

A Simplified Guide To Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

 

 

 

A Case For Professional Ethics

ethicsProfessional Ethics encompass the personal, organizational and corporate standards of behaviour expected of professionals. Professionals, and those working in acknowledged professions, exercise specialist knowledge and skill. Most professions have internally enforced codes of practice that members of the profession must follow to prevent exploitation of the client and to preserve the integrity of the profession. This is not only for the benefit of the client but also for the benefit of those belonging to the profession. Disciplinary codes allow the profession to define a standard of conduct and ensure that individual practitioners meet this standard, by disciplining them from the professional body if they do not practice accordingly. This allows those professionals who act with conscience to practice in the knowledge that they will not be undermined  by those who have fewer ethical qualms. It also maintains the public’s trust in the profession, encouraging the public to continue seeking their services.

Ethical Behavior is also defined as a set, or system of, moral values and principles that are based on honesty and truthfulness and have been accepted as professional standards. To police officers, coroners, death investigators and criminal justice in general;  the ethical mind-set additionally includes:  Integrity, courage and allegiance.   Let’s make a case for professional ethics.

Professional Ethics in Medicolegal Death Investigation

Paul R. Parker III, B.S., D-ABMDI 

  1. Introduction
    1. MLDI personnel are placed in a position of public trust
      1. We are involved at the most catastrophic of times for decedents and next-of-kin (NOK)
    2. Plenty of materials re: ethics and law enforcement
      1. Not necessarily on ethics and medicolegal death investigation (MLDI)
    3. Plenty of emphasis on actual MLDI but:
      1. Limited focus on the ethics, character, and behavior of MLDI personnel
      2. Limited focus on management/supervision of MLDI personnel
    4. National Academy of Sciences: Strengthening Forensic Science in US (2009)
      1. Recommended a National Code of Ethics for all forensic science professionals

 

  1. Professional Ethics
  2. Edwin Delattre (Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing)
    1. Character
      1. First nature
        1. Instant gratification as infants, indifferent to the effect of our wants on others
      2. Second nature
        1. As grow, learn, and are trained develop better or worse dispositions and habits
        2. Unless possessing an abnormal defect, most of the time good or bad character depends upon upbringing
  • Bad habits are hard to break
    1. Character can be reformed later in life
  1. Good character can be obtained by habituation in youth, observation and imitation of others, rejection of bad behavior by others, and continued practice of behaving well
    1. Challenged when growing up and not just made to do easy and interesting tasks results in people who are incapable of doing anything that is disagreeable and does not result in immediate gratification
  2. Types of character
    1. Bad character
      1. Seek opportunities to profit from others
      2. Must be removed from a position of public trust
    2. Uncontrolled
      1. They have a “price’ and can be reached
      2. Must be removed from a position of public trust
    3. Self-controlled
      1. Will do the right thing but resent it and the standard to which they are held
      2. Tension between duty and desire
      3. Management must provide guidance and leadership on how to deal with temptation
    4. Excellent
      1. Truly incorruptible
      2. Money is only “green paper”
    5. Intelligence without good character is dangerous
  3. Front Page Test
  4. What do you do when no one is watching
  5. Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason toward the right people
  6. Duty to profession
    1. Education
    2. Continuous improvement
    3. Focus on demeanor, appearance
  7. Duty to public
  8. Noblest motive is the public good
  9. Confidentiality
  10. Respect for decedent
    1. Cover body at scene
    2. Manipulation during reparation for transport
    3. Comments about
      1. “Crispy critter”
      2. “Floater”
  • “Decomp”
  1. “Ped Spread”
  1. Respect for NOK
    1. Interact with them at their most vulnerable and lowest period of life
  2. Safeguarding of property
    1. Last notified and on-scene, first accused of taking something, inappropriate activities
    2. Theft of personal property/money
      1. From scene
      2. From body
    3. Theft of medication
  3. Integrity
    1. Truth telling
      1. No lying or omissions
    2. Falsification of documents
      1. Time cards
      2. Reports
    3. False statements during investigations
      1. Cases
        1. Scenes
        2. Telephone
      2. Internal investigations
    4. Impartiality and neutrality
    5. Reports
      1. Thorough
      2. Factual
        1. Leave anything out?
          1. Conversations with pathologists, other investigators
        2. NOK
          1. Notification
            1. Knock once (lightly) and then leave a card
            2. Due diligence in searching for them
          2. Interaction with NOK
            1. What to disclose to them during notification, investigation, follow-up
            2. What to leave out during conversations
          3. Timeliness of interaction with NOK
            1. Prior to media notification of cause and manner
          4. Extent of interaction with
            1. Developing personal relationships
          5. Expectation of gratitude
        3. Harassment, bullying of co-workers, subordinates, gossiping
        4. Public life vs. private life
          1. Appropriate activities while on-duty
            1. Above reproach
            2. Professional
  • Moral and ethical behaviors, not:
    1. Inappropriate relationships/sex on-duty
    2. Alcohol
    3. Theft
    4. Disrespect
    5. Gratuities
    6. Favoritism
    7. Inappropriate activities with decedents
  1. Appropriate activities while off-duty
    1. Criminal activities
    2. Alcohol
  • Sex
  1. Domestic violence

 

  • Fostering Professional Integrity
    1. MLDI personnel must be trust-worthy and of high character and integrity
    2. Selecting right people
      1. Background
        1. Written
        2. Interview
        3. Role playing
        4. Psychological
        5. Polygraph
        6. Criminal history check
          1. LE sends background investigators to talk to neighbors, former acquaintances
        7. Credit check
      2. New hire
        1. Code of ethics
          1. Most include:
            1. Must not exercise professional or personal conduct adverse to best interests of agency/certifying body
            2. Must not misrepresent education, training, experience
  • Must not misrepresent data, findings, etc.
  1. Code of conduct
    1. Should include:
      1. decedents, customers, and co-workers shall be treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy at all times
      2. services shall be provided in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules and regulations,
  • working environment shall be free from all forms of harassment, discrimination, or intimidation shall be maintained
  1. employee will not be required to compromise his or her appropriate or established professional standards or objectivity in the performance of his or her duties
  2. participate in and encourage activities that promote quality assurance and continuous improvement
  3. work culture that promotes the prevention, detection, and resolution of instances of conduct that do not conform to ethical or legal standards and to this Code of Conduct
  1. Relies upon:
    1. Members willing to follow
    2. Management must enforce/”buy in”
  2. Training program
  3. Policies
  4. Procedures
  5. Probationary period
  • Continuing
    1. Management must model ethical behavior
      1. Walk the walk
      2. Do not look the other way when it comes to ethics and integrity issues
    2. Peer counseling

 

Practical Cultural Guidelines For Death Investigators

globe [Converted]Culture includes the beliefs, customs, and arts of a particular society, group, or place. How people respond to issues of death or dying is directly related to their cultural backgrounds. Anyone who works with families should be sensitive to their culture, ethnic, religious, and language diversity.

10 Practical Guidelines

  1. » Allow families to grieve the loss of their loved one in their customary ways.
  2. » Recognize that grief and loss may be expressed differently across cultures.
  3. » Use an interpreter when necessary to avoid miscommunication.
  4. » Identify important ethnic or faith leaders in the community and ask them about what support is available for families.
  5. » Avoid personal contact such as hugging or touching unless invited.
  6. » Carefully consider the words you use when speaking with family members about their loss.
  7. » Respond to family requests in a respectful and sensitive manner.
  8. » Avoid answering questions such as “why?”
  9. » Be conscious of the volume of your voice.
  10. » If you are entering a home, be conscious of your shoes.

 

Full Downloadable Guideline

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 New Book – Get your copy now !   Click the Book to Learn more…….

Professionalism – Respect is Earned Not Granted

What's the problem?!If you want to be seen as a professional, you must present a professional image and attitude that will command respect.   You WILL NOT get the respect you need simply by your title. Respect is earned not granted.    There has been a long history of perceived and actual unprofessionalism in the Coroner industry. This has spilled over into Medical Examiners office and police agencies as well.  But by and large many coroners struggle with being accepted as a professional.   Is it industry bias, or a reality of the image the coroner is projecting?

Five Areas You Must Address

1. Need for written policy

  •     All staff from top down
  •     Procedures for all to follow
  •        Victim families
  •        Property
  •        Report dealines 

2. Attitude of cooperation

  •    With co-workers
  •    Other Agencies    Stop power pulls
  •    Interactions with families        

3. Office Organization

  •   Office area appearance
  •   Filing
  •    Reporting
  •    Returning messages   Voice and Email

4. Dress code standards

  •    At office / morgue
  •    On scenes
  •            Proper Dress    Proper Id on clothing
  •     On duty and in public
  •             This includes automobiles
  •                   Is it marked
  •                   Even Magnetic logos
  •                   What type of vehicle

5. Training    

  •       How trained are you    
  •      Can you talk and understand the field
  •      Your responsibility  to get it
  •               This podcast
  •               Reading
  •               Courses     local Sheriff Office
  •               ABMDI
  •               Use your ME


Featured Podcasts

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http://firefightertrainingpodcast.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Training and courses designed by and for the death investigation community.

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Secondary Traumatic Stress – Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over

Anita Brook-corner talk-secondary stressSecondary Traumatic Stress (STS), also known as Compassion Fatigue , is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as coroners, police, nurses, psychologists, and first responders.  Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, sleeplessness or nightmares, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self-doubt. This self-doubt can cause problems at work and home, and over time will effect all relationships.

Several personal attributes place a person at risk for developing compassion fatigue. Persons who are overly conscientious, perfectionists, and self-giving are more likely to suffer from secondary traumatic stress. Those who have low levels of social support or high levels of stress in personal life or job are also more likely to develop STS. In addition, previous histories of trauma that led to negative coping skills, such as bottling up or avoiding emotions, increase the risk for developing STS.

Many organizational attributes in the fields where STS is most common, such as the healthcare field and death investigators, contribute to compassion fatigue among the workers. For example, a “culture of silence” where stressful events such as deaths in an intensive-care unit are not discussed after the event is linked to compassion fatigue. Lack of awareness of symptoms and poor training in the risks associated with high-stress jobs can also contribute to high rates of STS.

There are no known clinical treatment options for compassion trauma, but there are a number of recommended preventative measures

Personal self-care

Stress reduction practices have been shown to be effective in preventing and treating STS. Taking a break from work, participating in breathing exercises, exercising, and other recreational activities all help reduce the stress associated with STS. In addition, establishing clear, professional boundaries and accepting the fact that successful outcomes are not always achievable can limit the effects of STS.

Social self-care

Social support can help practitioners maintain a balance in their worldview. Maintaining a diverse network of social support, from colleagues to pets, promotes a positive psychological state and can protect against STS.

 


 

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 7.49.33Many thanks to  Anita Agers-Brooks  for her contribution  to our community and her research on this topic.  You can find more about Anita from the link in her name.  Her knew book can be found on Amazon.  

 

 

 

 

First on the Scene – Advance Responders

Medicolegal Death Investigation Overview for First Responders
Paul R. Parker III, B.S., D-ABMDI

First RespondersPolice officers, sheriff deputies, firefighters, and EMS personnel play a critical role in medicolegal death investigations. As “first responders,” the majority of time they are, in fact, the first officials at the scene in which a death or the incident ultimately resulting in death occurs. What they see, smell, hear, do, and document are critical pieces of information required for medicolegal death investigators (MDI) to accurately write the last chapter of someone’s life story.

First responders frequently interact with Medical Examiner/Coroner (ME/C) personnel either telephonically when reporting a death or in-person while at the scene after the MDI’s arrival. Despite the frequency of interaction, oftentimes there is confusion about the ME/C role and responsibilities. When reporting a death to the ME/C, have you said, “We have a pick up for you?” How many times have you said or heard someone say, “Why isn’t this a Coroner’s case?” or “Why isn’t the Medical Examiner responding?” or “What am I supposed to do with this body now?” or “Why is the Coroner asking me so many questions? Why don’t they just come out here and pick up this body?” or “Can you believe they want me to count the oxycodone pills? Can’t they come out and count them themselves?” or “What’s taking the Coroner so long to get here?” or “Why is the Medical Examiner upset that we towed the vehicles/removed the firearm from the scene prior to their arrival?”

This podcast provides all first responders an overview of medicolegal death investigation offices, functions, and jurisdiction; expectations when interacting with ME/C personnel, both during the death report and scene investigation; and a brief discussion of scene and body indicators of various types, causes, and manners of death.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Paul R. Parker III,   B.S., D-ABMDI

Parker Medicolegal Services, LLC

P.O. Box 20525

Fountain Hills, Arizona 85269

Telephone: 480-298-4981

Website: www.ParkerMLS.com

Email: Paul@ParkerMLS.com