What are the roles and responsibilities of the first attending police officer at a crime scene?
Of all the roles and responsibilities police hold, one of the most important any officer could have, would be that of the first attending officer at a crime scene. The ability of the first attending officer to perform their duties accurately is vital for the outcome of evidence collection to be successful. The importance of the evidence collected can help the investigation in many ways, it can be used to determine if there was a crime committed, help link suspects with the crime scene or victims, assist in establishing any proofs/elements of the crime, support witness/victim testimony's and more importantly help exonerate the innocent.
Errors made by the first attending officer may never be amended. That is why it is important that the first attending officer adhere to the crucial steps required for preserving the crime scene. Regardless of the officers ranking or the severity of the crime, the duties that are required remain the same. They include; the safety of ones self and all others present at the scene, identification and preservation of the crime scene, notifying radio (VKG) on the extent of the crime and request required assistance, determine potential witnesses and suspects and finally to make sure detailed notes on all aspect of the crime are kept updated in their notebook.
The key to an officer's survival when arriving at a crime scene or incident is the assessment of the situation for safety hazards. This assessment is an ongoing role that does not stop until they have finished at the scene. It is when an officer becomes complacent that their safety is compromised. Once the officer has assessed the situation and feels it is safe to enter, they can then start assessing assistance needed for other people.
The foremost important role of an officer to carry out is preservation of life. The safety and preservation of others comes second only to that of the officers own life. An officer may have a duty of care to fulfil, but not if their own safety will be jeopardised in doing so. While the preservation of a crime scene is important, the safety and lives of others is placed before this, even if it means damage to the crime scene. (Donofrio 2000) (Byrd n.d.)
An officer must first attend to or request help for those who require it. They can then determine the nature of the crime committed and begin to cordon off the scene. This will include setting up of perimeters and removing everybody from within these perimeters. While removing people from the scene, the officers need to be careful not to disturb any potential evidence. One way to minimise disturbance is to set up a common Entry/Exit point, for all people who enter or leave the scene to utilise. Before deciding where the Entry/Exit point should be situated, an officer needs determine the route that would cause minimal disturbance to the crime scene and keep it away from the route most likely used by the perpetrators. The purpose behind having a common Entry/Exit point is to stop people disturbing and potentially contaminating the evidence (Forensic Services Group 1999) and makes it easier to monitor everyone in a logbook as only one point of access is used. It is also important that only the necessary people enter the crime scene and that all non-essentials be kept out.
When cordoning off a crime scene, it is important to take into account the nature of the crime. This may include aspects such as wether the crime scene is indoors or outdoors, the type of crime that has been committed and things that could interfere with the scene for instance - animals, humans etc. When setting out the boundary, it is good practise to use objects that will physically stop anything from entering and causing contamination. An officer could use crime scene tape to discourage humans from entering but it may be of little use to keep animals, such as dogs, out of the scene. If...
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