Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $86,708)
Adding Scientific and Criminal Justice Expertise to Death Investigations While Growing Community Confidence and Safety in Kittitas County, Washington
Created in 2015 the Kittitas County Coroner’s Office is staffed with two full time employees and four part-time, on-call investigators. The office depends on one forensic pathologist who is retiring in the Fall of 2021. Losing our specialist, we started asking how to bring a distant expert to our death scene investigation in a way they trust in decisions made during consultation. Our answer has substantial rewards, it will establish scientific integrity and transparency in all our investigations. With the purchase of a Leica 360RTC laser scanner, a Leica BLK360 laser scanner, associated training, software, and licensing the Kittitas County Coroner’s Office will capture and share a death scene.
Using technology, we will provide confidence in long distance collaboration with experts by documenting scene reality with contextual, probative, and immersive 3D imagery. We will collect GPS data points for analysis and accelerate our investigation workflows. We will add technology designed for the novice user to our toolbox in a time when science and scientific expertise is increasingly in demand.
The office serves over 47,000 residents of rural Kittitas County. With many more traveling Interstate-90 from metropolitan cities such as Seattle, WA the population is estimated to change rapidly, surging to over 60,000 on weekends and holidays. Covering 2,333 square miles from the Cascade Mountain wilderness to the shrub steppe of the Columbia River, our unique geography draws outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Our proximity to denser populations causes a situation where more than 42% of our critical investigations (homicide, suicide, and accident) in the last five years involve non-resident decedents. There is an expectation we have professional scientific certification and technology like that of larger cities. With reduced access to certified experts, specifically the lack of a forensic pathologists Kittitas County Coroner’s Office is in crisis.
Using the laser scanners to quickly and accurately document death scenes is imperative for the Kittitas County Coroner’s Office to deliver on our commitments in the most fiscally responsible and efficient way. The scanner provides a new ability to produce scene re-enactments with witness perspective imagery. The Kittitas County Coroner’s Office will increase the community’s fundamental faith in our investigations and increase our value in the criminal justice system by adding technology that bridges scientific and criminal justice expertise with our death investigations.