612.10 DEATH MESSAGES
- ORS 146.095 Responsibility for investigation
- ORS 146.109 Notification of next-of-kin
By law (ORS 146.109), the Medical Examiner’s (ME) Office is responsible for conducting next-of-kin notification for deaths requiring investigation in the State of Oregon. On occasion, members of the Portland Police Bureau may be asked to make that notification, or convey an emergency message on behalf of the ME’s Office. To the extent that the request will not interfere with either the statutory duties of the medical examiner or any investigation, the member will attempt to provide this service to the community in a humane and compassionate manner.
Directive Specific Definitions
Death message: Any message related to death or serious injury.
Medical Examiner Notifications (612.10)
It is the responsibility of the ME’s Office to notify relatives or friends of the deceased when they are involved in a death investigation. However, members will honor any reasonable request from the ME’s Office for assistance in these matters.
Outside Agency Notifications (612.10)
If the request for the delivery of a death message originates from an outside agency, a member will be dispatched. The member receiving the call will be requested to call the dispatch coordinator for the information. Name(s) of the deceased or injured person(s) will not be transmitted on the police radio net.
Death messages will normally be delivered by the member handling the call. However, the member may use discretion as to whether to actually deliver the message or have the person call the originating agency concerning the emergency. Messages which contain incomplete information or do not clearly indicate the nature of the problem should usually be handled by informing the relative or friend to call and receive the message directly from the originating agency. If the member elects to have the message delivered by the originating agency, the member will remain at the scene while the call is being made to ensure that the message has been received and the person will require no further assistance.
On Scene Notifications (612.10)
It is important that the family is notified in person or a member stands by during telephone notification by the originating agency. This allows the member to assess the appropriate services the family may need. When notifying non-English speaking families it is important to have translation services ready and available to assist. Volunteer chaplains can be a valuable aid to members dealing with grieving families by freeing members to focus on other immediate police functions while the chaplains work with the family. When a volunteer chaplain is appropriate, the member will make the request through the dispatch coordinator. Bureau of Emergency Communication (BOEC) will then make the request for a volunteer chaplain through the volunteer chaplain coordinator. Since grief and bereavement may cause varied reactions ranging from none at all to a strong emotional reaction and even violence, safety is a first priority. The ultimate responsibility for the scene of the death investigation rests with the District Attorney and the ME for the county.
In incidents where the volunteer chaplain service is not utilized, but there exists a need for crisis intervention, the member may request a volunteer through the Crisis Response Team (CRT) coordinator. This request will be made through the Dispatch Coordinator at BOEC. The CRT coordinator will make contact with the requesting member.
In cases where the family is present at the scene of the death investigation and the family has made a request to view the body prior to the removal by a representative from the ME’s Office, it must be mutually agreed upon by the ME, the District Attorney, and the investigative agency prior to any on scene viewing. All entities will take into consideration safety at the scene, evidentiary concerns, the state of the body and the family’s emotional needs.
Some survivors may wish to know as many details as possible, while others may not. In cases where the resulting death or serious injury is under investigation, the details relating to the condition of the body or descriptions of injuries shall not be released to family members until the investigating agency has been consulted. In those cases, members shall refer the family to the investigating entity.
Once the body has been turned over to the ME’s Office or its representative, the ME is responsible for the proper chain of custody relating to the body and its associated property. The body will remain in the custody of the ME’s Office until the ME arranges for the proper release.