Better Police Training Sought For Child Death Scene Probes


All of North Carolina’s new law enforcement officers should be required to undergo specialized training on child death scene investigations, the state’s medical examiner and a legislative task force say, according to the Charlotte Observer. The proposal is among several prompted by an Observer series this year, “Cradle of Secrets,” that looked at five years of sudden infant death syndrome cases in North Carolina and found that police frequently fail to investigate the deaths thoroughly, if at all.

Tom Vitaglione, co-chair of the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch now want the state to hire trained death scene investigators and put them in regional offices so they can respond to infant and child deaths. North Carolina doesn’t have full-time trained investigators to send to most infant deaths, but a growing number of jurisdictions nationally do. Also under consideration: finding ways to push more police to use state-issued checklists when they go to death scenes. The six-page checklists could help many officers do a more thorough job, experts say. They’re now optional. “I think we need standards,” said Brett Loftis, a task force member and Charlotte children’s rights advocate who supports the new efforts. “The inconsistency with how deaths are being handled across the state is cause for concern.” The Observer’s series found that most N.C. cases of SIDS, considered a natural and unpreventable death, contained evidence that suggested the babies actually might have suffocated. At least 69 percent of SIDS babies over the five-year period were in risky sleep situations. That included infants sleeping with one or more adults, on couches, adult beds, pillows and comforters, or face down.

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