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Homicide
Report
When you're the first police officer to arrive on the
scene of a homicide, you become the primary
officer.  Your first and foremost concern will be the
protection and preservation of the crime scene.

Let's look at what would be a pretty simple homicide
report.  You receive an anonymous  call for
suspicious activity in a secluded wooded area about
one o'clock in the morning.  You arrive to find no
current activity.  As you walk the area with your
flashlight, you see a person lying on a foot path.  
You soon determine you have a homicide evidenced
by the obvious bullet holes in the victim.  The victim
is cold to the touch indicating to you an earlier time
of death.  You also notice a lot of blood on the
victim's clothing indicating that bleeding had been
excessive; however, you observe no blood on the
ground where you'd expect to see some blood.  
You conclude that the victim was probably
murdered at another location and subsequently
dumped on the foot path.  

Okay, what have you established as far as your
reporting is concerned.  You've made a number of
observations, but which, or how many, of your
observations should you note in your report?  Since
you're not a pathologist, you should leave the
determination regarding any transport of the body
up to the medical examiner.

Here's how your report should read up to this point:
Let's go back to your victim on the path.  Whether
or not the homicide occurred on your turf, that's
where it ended up.  As a police officer, it's your duty
to contribute your efforts as time permits.  Let's
assume that you return to the crime scene the
same morning at sunrise where homicide detectives
are doing their own daylight search of the area.  
You decide to expand your search even though it
would appear the victim was transported into the
wooded area by way of the path since it didn't
appear that any effort was made to further conceal
the body.    

Since you're very familiar with the area, you decide
to check a parking lot that's located about 100
yards from the crime scene and adjacent to the
woods, but with no direct access [pathway] into the
wooded area.  There are about twenty residences
around the parking lot, and you decide to interview
as many residents as possible.  The hour is good
since you'll be knocking on doors as most people
are getting up for work.  As you look around the
parking lot, you immediately notice that some high
grass on the hillside next to the woods is trampled
giving the appearance that a person or persons
have recently been traversing the hillside.

As you begin interviewing residents regarding any
activity on the parking lot from the previous evening
or morning hours, you point out the trampled
condition of the grass on the hillside to determine if
anyone might have knowledge of anyone entering
the woods at that location.  About halfway through  
your interviews, you speak with a resident who tells
you he heard voices on the parking lot sometime
after midnight.  Since it's usually very quiet at that
time, he looked out from his living room window
where he saw three men standing and talking near
the rear of a parked SUV.  Upon further
questioning, you learn that the SUV was not familiar
to the resident, and, even more significant, the SUV
was parked directly in front of, or very near to, the
area of trampled grass on the hillside.  The resident
gives you physical descriptions of the three men
and the SUV.  A license number would have been
nice, but that is not to be.  You continue knocking
on doors, but no further information is forthcoming.

You decide to traverse the hillside to see what
might turn up.  You're definitely looking for any
signs of blood since your victim was covered in
blood.  You don't see any blood, but, as you
continue farther into the woods, it does appear that
someone had recently traveled through the area.  
There is just enough underbrush that you can spot
areas that appear to be trampled.  At one point,
you observe several footprints in some soft dirt
which indicates more than one person.  As you
continue your trek, you realize you're heading in a
straight line toward the crime scene.  The foot
prints, at about the halfway point, end up being the
only real indication of recent presence.  

When you emerge onto the footpath, you soon
locate the homicide detectives.  While the detectives
had checked the woods surrounding the crime
scene, they had not located the foot prints you
came upon.  You lead the detectives back over the
route pointing out the footprints and any other
areas you found indicating recent movement.

Now...what kind of, if any, reporting should you
submit.  It's simple, you should report everything
you did to include all the interviews identifying all
the people interviewed; information received, how
you acted on the information, and evidence
[footprints] you recovered.  One of two things is
evident.  Either the evidence you've developed has
absolutely no connection to the homicide, or you've
just established that the victim was probably
transported by the SUV described, and the three
men described carried the victim's body up that
hillside and through the woods to the footpath.

Under this circumstance, if you're dealing with
competent and experienced homicide investigators,
they're going to instruct you to report everything
on a supplemental report so that all your interviews
and subsequent observations become a permanent
part of the investigation.  If you're dealing with a
couple of "hotshots," you could get a different
instruction.  You could be told, "You don't need to
write anything.  We've got all the information, so
you don't have to bother writing anything."  

I put that body on the footpath for a reason.  Your
detectives could have already concluded that the
body was carried into the woods over the footpath
since it doesn't make sense why the body would be
carried through the woods and then dumped on the
path where it was clearly visible.  Even though you'll
soon learn that good sense and criminal activity
have very little in common, you'll find that a lot of
police officers, even the supposedly experienced
and expert ones, stubbornly ignore information that
contradicts their theory of an event.

Any time you develop any information that could
reasonably relate to a homicide, that information
should be documented as part of the official police
report.  You'll find that some investigators, as well
as supervisors, won't agree.  They'll like to control
the information that ultimately becomes part of the
official reporting.  It's human nature to avoid
contradictions, but it's human folly to ignore
contradictions.  Let's say your detectives ignore
what they believe to be your over zealousness or
interference.  They ignore the foot prints, and that
evidence is lost.  If the footprints ultimately have no
significance, there's no harm done.  However, if the
footprints belonged to suspects who dumped the
body, valuable evidence has indeed been lost.
"At 0105 hrs, [date], I responded to [location] for a
report of suspicious activity.  During a search of the
area, I discovered a male lying on his back across a
foot path with his head pointing in a northeasterly
direction.  I observed apparent gunshot wounds to
the victim's chest and head.  Fire Department
ambulance number 3 responded to the scene, and
Paramedic John Smith pronounced the victim dead
at 0120 hrs., [date]."

In this incident, it's obvious to you that the victim is
dead, and, theoretically, as a police officer, you'll be
qualified to make a pronouncement of death.  
However, in reality, it's always best to have an
authorized paramedic make that official
determination.  There will be times when death is so
obvious, the paramedic pronouncement will not be
required.  The medical determination is a routine
occurrence, and people expect to see it in your
report.  It's a lot easier to follow the routine rather
than explaining why you didn't.  The paramedics
you work with will be aware of crime scene
procedures, and they'll do their pronouncement
quickly and efficiently without contaminating your
crime scene.

It's obvious that this crime scene will be easy to
secure.  Your report will go on to record the
notifications you make, and the arrival of persons
such as detectives, crime lab, and medical
examiner.  Your report is primarily a chronological
record of activity regarding the crime scene.  The
investigative portion of the homicide will rest with
the assigned investigator(s).  As a new police officer
handling your first homicide, you may have a lot of
theories you'd like to relate...and that's find.  You
can verbally communicate your theories to the
primary investigator who can evaluate their
relevance.

When it comes to investigations, homicide comes in
at the top of the list.  Whether you're employed by
a police department that experiences few or many
homicide investigations, the homicide will always be
the one to receive the most attention, and...the
most restrictions.  When I say restrictions, I'm
referring to your involvement in the investigative
aspect.  Simply put, your department doesn't want
some rookie cop screwing up a homicide
investigation.

You'll learn that following the very beginning of a
homicide investigation where patrol officers are
expected to search for evidence and witnesses,
homicide investigators will rarely seek your active
involvement in the continuing investigation.  That's
not to say that you should abandon your interest
or efforts to locate witnesses, evidence, or other
information that will assist the investigation.
There's another reason why you might be told not
to bother writing a report.  Your "hotshots" might
indeed see the value of your discoveries.  It could
turn out that your information will lead to further
information that solves the case.  Of course their
reporting won't mention your efforts in the woods.  
They'll reinterview the witness you located, but,
again, no mention will be made of your original
interview.  It's just another of those human nature
conditions...who gets the credit?

They'll be plenty of times when you'll pursue
interesting and important investigations when no
one else has any interest.  You can go along
documenting your investigation's progress without
any criticism or interference.  When it comes time to
obtain search warrants or arrest warrants, it's your
investigation, so you do what needs to be done.  
However, when it comes to any active
investigations, particularly homicides, you must
always coordinate your activities and reporting with
those responsible for the investigations.

Let's go back to that witness who observed the
three men and the SUV.  Only, this time, we'll make
it more interesting.  The witness tells you he saw
the three men removing a large object from the rear
of the SUV.  He describes how the men appeared to
be struggling with the weight of the object as they
crawled up the hillside, before they disappeared into
the woods.  At the time, he suspected the men
were discarding trash in the woods.  That belief
irritated him, so he went outside to get close
enough to the SUV to record the vehicle's license
number.  You check the license number, and you
learn that the number is registered to an SUV as
described by the witness, and you further establish
that there is no report of the vehicle being stolen.

You've obviously just revealed a major development
in this case.  Your correct action is to get this
witness and the homicide investigator(s) face to
face.  In this instance, the investigators are nearby,
so you'll request their immediate response.  In case
you don't realize it, you've just developed a ton of
probable cause to obtain a search and seizure
warrant for what is now a suspect vehicle.  Here
again, the investigators should instruct you to start
writing your report as they go about preparing the
application for a search and seizure warrant based
upon the information "you've" developed.  Your
report will describe everything you did leading up to
the application for the search and seizure warrant.

Now...if you're a moron, or worse and idiot, you
could -- without consulting with anyone -- just run
with what you've developed and obtain the search
and seizure warrant; locate the vehicle; execute the
warrant, and possibly seize important evidence.  
Believe it or not, you're going to work with police
officers who will do just about anything to achieve
recognition.  For this type of individual, recognition
is useless if it has to be shared.  When it comes to
a homicide investigation, this type of recognition will
do you far more harm than anything else.

By this point, it should be obvious just how
important it is for you to search for information;
document the information, and coordinate
investigative and enforcement activities based on all
the information.  Of all the reporting you do, the
homicide report, and any subsequent follow-up
reports, will be of the utmost importance.  There's
nothing hard about it as long as you follow
established procedures and document everything
that should be documented.   
"Of all the reporting you do, the homicide
report, and any subsequent follow-up reports,
will be of the utmost importance."
~ Barry M. Baker  
This may surprise you, but, as the primary police
officer at the scene of a homicide, your homicide
report will most often be one of the simplest
reports you'll prepare.  Of course, there can always
be exceptions.  If you arrive while the homicide is in
progress, your reporting will obviously be more
comprehensive.  Or, if the homicide victim is
somebody important, your note taking on the crime
scene activity could take on a fast and furious pace.
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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