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IAMWRITER
07-30-2012, 03:46 AM
Hey guys.

I'm writing my crime novel but have stalled as I am unsure on how Police in America (modern NYC) notify relatives of a murder. I done some research but it is a bit conflicting.

I'm wondering -

* How a body is identified - would a Driver's Licence do or would a relative have to identify?
* If a relative does have to identify how are they contacted - at home, phone etc.
* If body is identified by ID, again how are relatives informed?
* Regardless, who would do the notifying?

Much appreciated

Maryn
07-30-2012, 05:50 PM
In my mercifully limited experience:

A body's identity may be suggested by ID such as a driver's license found with it which appears to match, but someone who knows the person well, most often a family member, officially IDs the body by viewing it. Some places use video monitors, some have it behind glass and mostly covered on its gurney, and some still have the family member enter the morgue.

For something this serious, the police come to your house rather than phone. They don't even phone to see if you're home. If you're not in and if they can easily determine where you work--say a neighbor sees them and shares that information--they'll come to you at work and ask to speak in a private place.

Once a single family member has IDed the body, the police notification aspect is done. It's up to the family to notify other family members and friends. If the death is suspicious and the police are investigating, sometimes they reach certain family members or friends before they know of the death.

The police do all the notifying--not the coroner or any other public employee.

Maryn, hoping this helps

WeaselFire
07-30-2012, 06:37 PM
Normally, an agency would ID the body by ID on the body. The vast majority of deaths don't need to have someone see the body for identification, that's a TV show thing. It changes if there's no ID of course.

As for notification, if the relatives are in the jurisdiction, a detective or officer would notify the family. Large departments have people assigned to this, in small agencies it falls to the guy on patrol or the detective.

Relatives outside the jurisdiction are normally located and notified by the agency with jurisdiction over their location. A detective in Lansing, Michigan might call the department in Missoula, Montana to notify one of their residents, for example.

Our agency's policy is to notify in person, although sometimes it involves international cooperation, embassies and the like. I would say almost every other agency would do similar.

Jeff

Puma
07-30-2012, 06:40 PM
Also limited experience but actual. My nephew, James Christopher who went by Chris, died in Oregon where he was living in a rooming house. His parents lived in Ohio (close to 2000 miles away). The circumstances of death were suspicious. No one in Oregon had any family contact information but the police found a package in my nephew's room with the return address of his uncle who lives on Long Island, New York. They called him and asked him if he knew James. Since our nephew was always Chris, it took quite a while for my brother to figure out who the police were calling about. He gave the police the correct contact information and then had to wait all day knowing his nephew was dead for the police to notify our brother. That notification was done by a police officer and a member of the clergy who went to our brother's house together. There was no requirement for anyone in the family to fly to Oregon to identify the body. Puma

jclarkdawe
07-30-2012, 07:35 PM
Hey guys.

I'm writing my crime novel but have stalled as I am unsure on how Police in America (modern NYC) notify relatives of a murder. I done some research but it is a bit conflicting.

I'm wondering -

* How a body is identified - would a Driver's Licence do or would a relative have to identify? A driver's license by itself probably won't do it, but add in fingerprints and you're good to go. Relatives are used rarely, and you need a new body. After a couple of days of decomposition, it's hard for anyone to identify someone by looking at the face. Tattoos are a wonderful identifier. Clothing can be helpful in some situations. Jewelry can help. Basic answer is it depends.

* If a relative does have to identify how are they contacted - at home, phone etc. Depends where in the process this happens. Police find a body, it hits the news big time and a probable ID is announced, they might do it by phone after having met with the family to warn them that it is possible this might be their family member. First contact is always in person.

* If body is identified by ID, again how are relatives informed? Two police officers or one officer and a clergy. Again, level of crime and news coverage impacts here.

* Regardless, who would do the notifying? The police, except for sometimes not. It depends upon the situation. Sometimes it's a co-worker, sometimes in smaller communities it's someone who knows the person.

Much appreciated

A lot of this depends upon the specific circumstances.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

IAMWRITER
07-30-2012, 10:10 PM
Thanks for the quick response guys. I think I've got enough to go on.

All are very helpful. Thanks.