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

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

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.,

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

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

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

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

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