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

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

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

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.,

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
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

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 © 2015  Barry M. Baker  

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