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Thread: Disclosure

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    Motorwaycop's Avatar
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    Disclosure

    Today I had the somewhat strange task of taking some very graphic pictures from a fatal collisiion to be viewed by the victims mother.
    She had made the request and there were alot of reports back and forth before it was agreed to give her access.

    My question is to what degree should the police divulge information to , speciffically, a victims family.
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    I think families should get any info they want, as long as it won't compromise the legal case or harm anyone else.

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    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    It's a judgement call, I think. They know what they think they want -- but you have to also think about what they really NEED to see. Even then, I'd probably start with the least graphic, and escalate. You can always stop before they see the worst that way.

    But I can see where some might need to see at least some of the pictures just to cope with the tragedy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenna View Post
    I think families should get any info they want, as long as it won't compromise the legal case or harm anyone else.
    I agree. However, I don't know if I'd want to see graphic pictures of a loved one. I don't think I would.




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    I still see many of the graphic scenes that I have been to. Something will trigger it and one of them will pop in my head.

    I really don't think family members should see their loved ones like that and have those views coming back time and time again.
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    Most public disclosure laws in the United States do not allow us to censor photos because they are graphic.

    Usually you can only censor stuff that will place a case in danger, or depicts a minor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLean View Post
    Most public disclosure laws in the United States do not allow us to censor photos because they are graphic.

    Usually you can only censor stuff that will place a case in danger, or depicts a minor.
    This.

    If they insist, show them. I like the advice of starting with the least graphic and work your way up. They can stop it whenever they want.
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    I'm going to chime in with a personal experience.


    After my brother's accident, I asked and eventually (after a lengthy delay) received the entire case file from the state patrol. I include photographs in my written request. The Inv. Trooper told me that he suggested I give the disc to someone trusted to delete photos of my brother because I more than likely wouldn't want to see them. I intended on asking one of my sgt's to do that for me.

    After several months I received the disc with all of the reports, digital media, photos, diagrams, etc. I've always had an overwhelming urge to know every single detail about his night that night, his accident, what happened before, during, after, everything. I've always wanted every single detail possible. When I finally got the disc I decided I wasn't going to get any pictures deleted just out of my need to know EVERYTHING. It's not some sort of morbid curiosity, or even a general "curiosity." I didn't get any joy or pleasure looking at them. I just needed to know. I needed to see it rather than take the troopers word.

    In the grand scheme, I wouldn't consider his accident or injury "graphic" in the visual sense. His injuries were internal with the exception of a small cut on his forehead. I guess that's one difference from the scenario the OP presented. And I knew that before I looked at the pictures. Had it been a graphic scene with significant, debilitating injuries I maybe wouldn't have looked at the pictures.

    I can tell you though from my own perspective, seeing the entire accident scene with nothing left out, while sad, brought me peace of mind and I'm glad I didn't have the pictures deleted before I looked at them.
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    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    I can tell you though from my own perspective, seeing the entire accident scene with nothing left out, while sad, brought me peace of mind and I'm glad I didn't have the pictures deleted before I looked at them.
    That's what I was talking about; sometimes people need to see it to make it real or to find some peace. And, as others said, disclosure laws often will allow them the opportunity to see everything. But a good investigator and victim's services team will often be able to work with them and help them figure out what they REALLY need and want to see.

    I'm happy my last memory of a cousin killed by a drunk driver is laughing and having a good time as he dropped me off to catch a bus. I don't know the extent of the crash, and I don't need to see the results of the head on collision with a drunk.
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  10. #10
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    Every crash and every family member is different from the last one you dealt with.

    I don't think that you can say that access to everything is right or wrong, and to be honest, I don't feel that we are the ones who should make that decision.

    All that you can do is to counsel them as to what they may find out and to use the method alluded to above going from a broad overview towards detail and saying you can stop when you want.

    I know exactly where you're coming from as I've been there on many occasions, similarly I've taken family to a crash scene which I was sure we had effectively cleaned only to spend 10 minutes standing still while the family looked around & left flowers as on my arrival I noticed a fairly substantial bone fragment that had been missed which luckily fitted just under my boot!

    I worked out I'd done something around 110 - 120 fatals in my 7 years as a Roads Policing Sgt and can still remember both the the scenes and the bereaved families of many of them with sometimes unwelcome clarity.

    The upshot is that you do what you are asked to, lead them through it but by bit and make sure that they are ready to take the next step as you turn each page of the album.

    Not something I'll miss when I finally finish to be honest.
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    I think society has become desensitized to most graphic scenes through movies and tv. Anything they see in a still picture will most likely not be that traumatic, even for a loved one. There seems to be a mental removal of who there looking at when I have gone through the same process.
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    It all really depends...When I was an EMT, I saw some graphic accident scenes, some including people I knew or knew well. When my sister died, (medical, not trauma, so a bit different I guess) I did not ask to read the autopsy report. I guess that in this case I didn't need it for closure. I don't think I would ask for accident/crime scene pictures if I was put in the position, but maybe would want to read the report. It's very hard to say what the actual decision would be if I were put in that position.
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    Before I was a cop, I worked security at our county hospital which also housed the state morgue. One of our responsibilities included conducting viewing of the deceased for family and friends. The reactions ranged from full scale riots in gang shootings to somber, quiet affairs, to the sight causing medical emergencies for the survivors.

    I think its a case by case decision, and the survivor should always have a trusted person with them when they see the pics or body. Funeral homes are good at what they do and its always better to remember your loved one intact, but I understand the closure aspect as well.

    Covman

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    I was involved in a fatal accident when I was 18, and the last thing I'd ever want to see are pictures of my best friend and his 3-year-old daughter that were killed in the acident.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cidp24 View Post
    I still see many of the graphic scenes that I have been to. Something will trigger it and one of them will pop in my head.

    I really don't think family members should see their loved ones like that and have those views coming back time and time again.
    I have to agree with Cidpd on this one. I can understand the woman's interest in wanting to know...after all, I think we all imagine things that are horrific. But, the problem in this situation is that what happened may actually be worse than what they imagined.
    I honestly cannot tell you what my wishes would be in this situation and I pray that I never have to find out.
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