Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation Greg Dagnan Chapter 3 - Actions of the Initial Responder
Learning Objectives Identify the two goals of the police at any critical incident. Identify and discuss the five crime scene objectives of the initial responding officer. Identify the three areas that help define the initial crime scene perimeter.
Learning Objectives .. continued Explain the purpose of the crime scene entry log and discuss its importance to the investigation. Identify the primary rule regarding life-saving and evidence preservation.
Initial Responding Officer and the Crime Scene Initial responding officers are not crimescene processors. Their actions however, set the stage for asuccessful crime scene examination. Crime scenes are not an abnormal circumstance,they are dealt with by police as any criticalincident would be.
Critical Incident Goals When presented with any critical incident, the initial responding officer has two basic goals. These are: – Bring the site under control. – Coordinate the employment of available resources. These goals are applicable to the crime scene as well.
Crime Scene Objectives These incident goals are expressed in five specific crime scene objectives. These are: – Document the information provided. – Ensure officer safety. – Provide for emergency care. – Secure and control the scene and all those in it. – Release the scene to the appropriate authority.
Document Information Provided The initial responder must keep track of the often times chaotic information provided. This includes knowing where this information came from. Examples of the importance of this include: – Claims by reporting individuals. – Information that may result in investigative red herrings. – Suspects who acknowledge facts they should not have known. – All of which may be critical at some future date.
Ensure Officer Safety The first responders cannot become casualties themselves. Officer safety issues at a crime scene include: – Crimes in progress or suspects still on scene. – Natural hazards that may inhibit or harm the initial responder. – Man-made hazards that might endanger initial responders.
Provide Emergency Care. Initial responders have a duty to act in the interests of victims or potential victims. Crime scene security may have to wait. Primary rule of emergency care is : – Life saving always takes priority over evidence preservation.
Emergency Care Issues For the sake of evidence preservation, initial responders do not have the authority to prevent EMS access to a scene. They can act, in the background, to try and preserve evidence or scene aspects as EMS conduct lifesaving operations. Only in cases of obvious death (e.g. putrefied body, decapitation) should EMS be prevented from entering a crime scene.
Secure and Control the Scene Expect a certain level of chaos at the crime scene. From those chaotic conditions, the initial responder is charged with bringing control to the situation. This involves two aspects: – Controlling all parties present – Physically securing the scene as soon as possible.
Controlling Parties Present Victims, witnesses, suspects and individuals who are in no way involved are likely to be on scene by the time police arrive. The initial responder must functionally: – Identify this group in some fashion. – Bring them under control and remove them from the immediate scene – Determine as quickly as possible who is who (e.g. ID witnesses from on-lookers)
Physically Secure the Scene Crime scene integrity is very much a part of good crime scene security. Despite the chaos, the initial responder has a crime scene security responsibility. This means identifying the initial crime scene perimeter and removing all parties from it. Q: What defines this initial perimeter?
Defining an Initial Perimeter Every crime scene is different, but there are three factors that help the officer identify the initial perimeter. These factors or areas of consideration are: – Primary focal points – Natural entry and exit points – Secondary scenes.
Primary Focal Points Primary focal points are always obvious to the observant officer. They may include: – The body or large blood pools. – Areas ransacked or disturbed. – Areas where evidence such as shell casings or money are strewn about and are immediately obvious. They are places the police are led or drawn to by their apparent association to the crime.
Natural Entry and Exit Points Natural avenues of entry or exit to these primary focal points are also of interest. Criminals must enter and then exit in order to accomplish the crime. These avenues of entry and exit often hold significant evidence (e.g. fingerprints, shoe marks) or may suggest possible secondary scenes.
Secondary Scenes Secondary scenes are areas of interest that may be anything but obvious. They may be staging areas where the criminal waited before or fled to after the crime. They are often located on the periphery of the crime scene and may be overlooked. Critical observation will help identify these areas.
Controlling the Initial Perimeter Once the initial perimeter is defined, the critical issue is to physically control it. Initially, the officer uses verbal commands to try and remove individuals from this area. The more chaotic the scene, the less effective this technique. A physical barrier of some nature is the only functional way to cordon off the initial perimeter.
Crime Scene Entry Control Log Once the initial perimeter is established and cordoned off, it is a controlled area. The initial responding officer should then establish a crime scene entry control log. The crime scene entry control log identifies: – Who entered the scene – When they entered, when they left. – Why they entered.
Crime Scene Entry Control Log This log is used to establish the integrity of the crime scene. The initial log may be nothing more than notes jotted down on a notebook, but it is an official record that others will review and examine. This record can help eliminate claims of crime scene integrity errors raised by counsel at some later date.
Release the Scene Once secured and under control, the initial responding officer is responsible for the scene until the arrival of the investigative team. Releasing the scene includes debriefing the investigative team on: – Critical observations on arrival. – Officer actions that may have changed the scene. – Status of security and any associated issues. – Status of any witnesses, victims or suspects.