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DGSO Douglas County Coroner Scene Investigations Unit DGSO January 26, 2023

DGSO Douglas County Coroner Scene Investigations Unit

The Douglas County Commission in 2022 approved establishing a Coroner Scene Investigations Unit under the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, assuming responsibility for these investigations from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

The CSI program aims to:

• Provide timely, thorough investigations of unattended deaths in Douglas County;
• Provide complete and accurate scene information to aid in determination of the cause and manner of death.

History of the CSI program in Douglas County
In 1995, Douglas County Ambulance Service (DCAS) in working with the Douglas County Coroner’s Office, established a program made up of DCAS personnel specially trained and certified as medicolegal death investigators. These investigators were known as Coroner Scene Investigators (CSIs). After DCAS merged with the Lawrence Fire Department to form Lawrence Douglas County Fire and Medical (LDCFM), the CSI program operated under LDCFM until September 2022, due to considerations about allocating resources to response times for emergency medical services.
Sheriff Jay Armbrister in 2022 established a civilian-led unit to handle coroner scene investigations in Douglas County. Utilizing this type of team should reduce response and out-of-service time for law enforcement personnel as well.

Why there is a need for a CSI program
Kansas statutes require the County Coroner determine the cause and manner of all unattended deaths, or deaths that do not occur under the care of an attending physician. The coroner or CSIs operating under the authority of the coroner will investigate deaths that are caused by homicide, suicide, or accident, are sudden, unexpected or are suspicious in nature. Deaths of juveniles, deaths that occur in custody, any death that occurs within 24 hours of admission to a hospital, or deaths in which identification of the body is not certain will also be investigated by a CSI.

The CSI responds to the scene of the death and reports preliminary findings to the coroner. Then it is the corner’s discretion to determine whether his/her presence is required at the scene. If the coroner is present, the CSI assists the Coroner with processing the scene. In the event that the coroner is not present at the scene, the CSI photographs the entire scene, examines the body and prepares and transports the body to the coroner’s office for further examination.

Other duties CSI investigations could entail:

• Gathering pertinent medical information about the decedent from physicians, hospitals and pharmacies;
• Coordinating with law enforcement personnel;
• Working with other government and medical agencies;
• Assisting with the initiation of funeral director services;
• Contacting family members; or,
• Contacting counseling services to assist those in the primary stages of the grieving process.

Departmental overview

• [1] full-time Coroner Scene Coordinator
• [2] full-time Coroner Scene Investigators
• [4] part-time/on-call Coroner Scene Investigators

A DGSO Operations Lieutenant oversees the unit. In 2021, CSIs in Douglas County responded to more than 300 calls for service.
For record requests, case disposition and information on post-mortem exams, please contact Frontier Forensics Midwest LLC at 913-299-1533 or email: [email protected].