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  • Police protocol when finding a deceased person in a home

    Research question for novel. What would be the typical protocol by police when someone is found dead in their home? This isn't a suspicious death. Here's a bit of background on the scene in the book so far.

    The deceased in an elderly woman in her 90's living in her friend's house. The friend is in their 80's and woke to a bad feeling that something's happened but they're fearful of going into the downstairs apartment in the home to check. The next door neighbor is the precinct Lt. and a good friend so instead of calling 911, they call him and he comes over and confirms the woman has passed.

    What would the Lt. do next? I can't see him calling in for other LEO's but I suppose he could. Would he call for an ME? Research says they're only called if the person died alone, outside, or suspicious causes which this isn't the case. Would he call the local funeral home? As a LEO could he look at the body and give an opinion on when he thought it happened? I'm thinking maybe 2 hrs earlier.

    I don't know if realistically a Lt. actually Would get up at stupid o'clock to go to the neighbors and check. In the book he's a good guy who knows civilian's panic where dead bodies are involved so he goes over. Thanks.

  • #2
    May vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, however in my previous life I worked for a mortuary. If the deceased was under the care of a physician who would be willing to sign a death certificate, then the deceased would to directly to a funeral home. If there is no attending physician, then the medical examiner would be called and the deceased would be transported to the ME facility and if necessary, a full or partial autopsy would be conducted.

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    • #3
      The Lt. is not going to officially speculate about the cause of death. He can relate facts about his observations.

      We respond to all deaths. Here, the Lt. would have a road crew dispatched. An attempt would be made to identify next of kin, and to see if the deceased was under medical care. If there is not an attending physician who will sign the death certificate, the body will be transported to the coroner's office.

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      • #4




        I think it's very realistic to get up in the middle of the night to help an elderly neighbor. Neighbors, especially
        elderly, seem to turn to their LEO neighbors for help.

        If that Lt. were here, he would call 911 and let the on duty first responders do what they do.
        The police respond and determine if it is suspicious and the scene is safe, fire and an ambulance show up etc.
        The primary officer will then contact the MEs office, advise what they have. The ME will either send out an
        ME investigator or tell the officer to transport to an ER for a doctor to declare death.

        The last death scene in which I was present, was an 85 y/o female. Multiple health issues. She had
        signed a DNR. The daughter gave an official copy to the FFs. No attempts were made to intervene and
        the body was transported to a hospital to be officially
        declared.
        The ER doctor would've come out to the ambulance and then the body was transported to the
        Funeral home.

        If the ER doctor saw something that concerned him or her, then she would have been transported to the
        MEs office.

        Here, the police will stay until the body is picked up.
        Last edited by Zeitgeist1; 11-11-2022, 11:32 AM.

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        • #5
          Above is much more polite than what I experienced on my very first natural death, fresh out of the Academy, in my mid twenties.

          It was apparently a natural, passed away in the recliner, death. EMS was there with us, the small lap dog knew something was odd with the elderly man, wife was crying, obviously very upset.

          EMS left, as they weren’t transporting, Coroner’s Office wasn’t coming out anytime soon, so we also left.

          This upset elderly woman was left alone with the dead body of her beloved husband still in the recliner. This still bothers me today, 30+ years later, it just seemed so cold, I can’t imagine being that woman,……..

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          • HI629
            HI629 commented
            Editing a comment
            Damn. I can only imagine what was going through that lady's mind.

            I had a case where a decedent was being cared for by the wife and a hospice nurse. The man passed, and the nurse helped the woman bathe him, sit him in his favorite recliner, put the TV remote in one hand, and a cold beer in the other. She put on his favorite prime time TV shows and when the last show was done at around 2300hrs (approximately 10 hours later), they called 911 for an ambulance to respond to the "unattended death". Paramedics spoke with his private physician who pronounced the death, and responding officers contacted the mortuary where I was working to respond. Glad the responding officers were able to distract the woman long enough for us to get the man into our transport vehicle. Rigor had set in and he was somewhat in the shape of the chair.

            We got him somewhat flat for transport. About half way back to the mortuary, one of the gurney straps failed. I'll save this part of the story for another time.....

            I can imagine how you felt on your first death call. My first death call as LE was pretty vivid as well. I had a partner that tossed her cookies. Was a "strange odor" call. Decedent had been dead for about 3 days. We made forcible entry, and a swarm of blue flies came out. I told her that she should go man the radio in the car because it was gonna be ugly. She insisted on following me into the home. As soon as the smell caught up with the visual, it was over for her.

            Next to domestics, death calls are my least favorite.

          • NolaT
            NolaT commented
            Editing a comment
            Agreed, the stories we can tell,…….

        • #6
          DOA's are found all the time by friends neighbors and family. An off duty LT would call the on duty units and they would handle everything after. Our procedure in NYC is similar to that of the above posts.

          Additionally for those that lived alone a Sgt will respond and along with the sector car and remove valuables, cash and wills. these will be safeguarded in the property clerk until the courts decide the rightful heir. The home will also be sealed until the court sorts it out. I was surprised how many hermits living in filth had many thousands of dollars secreted in their homes. I was equally surprised how many people come out of the woodwork to try to lay claim to items by saying they had some type of relationship to the deceased. Housekeepers and home attendants claiming to be girlfriends, neighbors showing up to claim items that they "loaned" to the deceased.
          Last edited by BNWS; 11-18-2022, 10:04 AM.

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          • #7
            I was also surprised by how many people die taking a dump.
            Last edited by BNWS; 11-12-2022, 10:08 AM.

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            • #8
              Originally posted by BNWS View Post
              I was also surprised by how many people die taking a dump.
              This is like half of my death calls...

              One of the medical examiner investigators told me once that when your body senses it is close to death, it attempts to purge every available toxin out of the body either through vomit, urine, or #2... basically a last ditch effort to save itself. So a lot of sick people, especially elderly, will go sit on the toilet once they get that feeling, not knowing it's actually the end.

              I don't know how much truth there is to that, but the guy had been picking up corpses for like 20 years so it seems reasonable to me.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by BNWS View Post
                I was also surprised by how many people die taking a dump.
                One of the things you learn in Paramedic school is the patient (heart attack, stroke, or similar sudden death incident ) often feels the need.

                I clearly remember a EMS short of breath call where I got to the home and grandpa was on the stool. He walked to the cot and laid down. We had a great chat for about 15 minutes in the back of the ambulance enroute to the hospital ROUTINE. He looked at me at one point and just died. I started advanced life support but it was not to be.

                I can't count the number of prisoners I found DOA sitting on the crapper over the years
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                • #10
                  Originally posted by Zeitgeist1 View Post



                  I think it's very realistic to get up in the middle of the night to help an elderly neighbor. Neighbors, especially
                  elderly, seem to turn to their LEO neighbors for help.

                  If that Lt. were here, he would call 911 and let the on duty first responders do what they do.
                  The police respond and determine if it is suspicious and the scene is safe, fire and an ambulance show up etc.
                  The primary officer will then contact the MEs office, advise what they have. The ME will either send out an
                  ME investigator or tell the officer to transport to an ER for a doctor to declare death.

                  The last death scene in which I was present, was an 85 y/o female. Multiple health issues. She had
                  signed a DNR. The daughter gave an official copy to the FFs. No attempts were made to intervene and
                  the body was transported to a hospital to be officially
                  declared.
                  The ER doctor would've come out to the ambulance and then the body was transported to the
                  Funeral home.

                  If the ER doctor saw something that concerned him or her, then she would have been transported to the
                  MEs office.

                  Here, the police will stay until the body is picked up.
                  This is probably the most accurate scenario for MOST of the agencies around me.
                  My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Originally posted by 1Redhawk View Post
                    What would be the typical protocol by police when someone is found dead in their home? This isn't a suspicious death. [...] The deceased in an elderly woman in her 90's living in her friend's house. The friend is in their 80's and woke to a bad feeling that something's happened but they're fearful of going into the downstairs apartment in the home to check. The next door neighbor is the precinct Lt. and a good friend so instead of calling 911, they call him and he comes over and confirms the woman has passed. What would the Lt. do next? [...]
                    Can't speak for the US, but the scenario as presented is pretty common. If someone elderly dies and is found by another elderly person, this is probably something not something entirely strange to them. It is generally younger people who - I won't say panic - but who react as though death is something bizarre and unusual, forgetting we all got it coming. If you have a Police friend living over the way, it's not unusual for them to get called as many people have never seen a dead person and they get frightened. Were it me, I would come over (assuming they could wake me up) start CPR/call for an ambulance if I thought life wasn't extinct but if, as seems apparent, the person was clearly dead, call it in and try and find next of kin so the officers could make contact. What I can't do is confirm the person has "passed". I can pretty confidently guess if a person is dead (if they're in rigor, that's a pretty good, or decomposing, or minus a head, actual example where this was queried). Declaring death is for medical professionals to say.

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                    • #12
                      Deleted - double post
                      Last edited by Cockney Corner.; 01-27-2023, 05:17 PM.
                      I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

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                      • #13
                        For us, the Lt would call the station to have Fire/Paramedics and a patrol unit sent over.

                        Paramedics would either call time of death, or have her transported to the ER

                        At that age, she most likely has at least one doctor thats willing to sign a death certificate

                        Family would then need to make arraignments with a local mortuary to handle the body
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