We use both our own and third-party cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. If you continue to browse, we consider that you accept the use of these.
  • Celebrating 20 Years of Training Excellence 2004-2024

crime scene
  • Death Investigation


The Death Investigation academy course will train police officers in the initial response and investigation in a death investigation. In our 16-hour course the student will learn how to identify various injuries, crime scene control and examination, manner and cause of death, identification of bloodstains, in-custody deaths, officer involved shooting incidents, child death cases, and investigation techniques. Though commonly regarded as police / peace officer training, the target audience for this course is (but is not limited to), inservice law enforcement personnel (patrol officers, detectives, supervisors), medical examiner investigators, child abuse investigators, internal affairs investigators, jail and prison correctional investigators, social services investigators, and any other personnel involved in the investigation of the death of another person.

Course Outline

Day One

Legal Issues Related to Death Investigation

Understanding the Criminal Justice System

  • Search and Seizure
  • Consent to search forms
  • Consent for release of medical records


  • Understanding the concepts surrounding what constitutes a voluntary statement
  • Circumstances under which a Miranda warning should be given
  • The nature of a spontaneous statement

Case Law

  • Various court decisions used to illustrate the above points as they relate to death investigations

Basic Death Investigation

  • Natural vs. Unnatural Death
  • Expected death vs. unexpected sudden death

Approach to a death scene

  • Inside/out observations
  • Outside/in observations
  • Mental note taking

Physical note taking

Essential Information

  • Persons on scene
  • Records checks of persons on scene and residence
  • Medical condition of victim

Coroner/Medical Examiner role

  • Who is in charge?
  • Causes of death
  • Common medical definitions

Missing Persons Investigations

  • Essential information needed in case the missing person turns up deceased

Wound Recognition

  • Bruising
  • Naturally occurring bruising vs. suspicious bruises
  • Stages of bruising


  • Recognizing a self devised/inflicted ligature mark from a mark inflicted from a second party

Incised Wounds

  • Basic understanding of instruments used and the appearance of the wounds produced from these instruments.

Gunshot wounds

  • Basic understanding of wounds left by a variety of firearms
  • Exit vs. entry wounds

Apparent Suicide

  • Overdose/Poisoning
  • Physical manifestations associated with overdose and poisoning suicides
  • Evidence items to be on the look out for associated to overdose and poisoning


  • Evidence items to be on the look out for associated with hanging suicides
  • Examination of victim for evidence
  • Measurements to be recorded


  • Examination of primary and secondary suicide scene for evidence
  • Examination of victim for evidence

Gunshot Suicides

  • Examination of the scene for evidence
  • Examination of immediate scene for evidence
  • Examination of surrounding area for evidence

Apparent Accidental Death A. Overdose

  • Recognition of signs of accidental overdose vs. suicide
  • Recognizing signs of alcohol poisoning vs. chronic alcoholism


  • Working in tandem with Fire Department personnel
  • Recognizing “heat induced” injury vs. suspicious injury
  • Posturing


  • Understanding the difference between injuries caused by a fall vs. those caused by a second party

Traffic Fatalities

  • Accident scene security
  • Understanding when an accident turns into an “on purpose”
  • The importance of identifying onlookers. E. Drowning
  • Understanding what evidence to look for upon initial arrival
  • Obtaining water samples and from where to obtain them


  • Understanding what evidence to look for upon arrival
  • Interviews of family, friends, and associates

The student will also learn the critical components essential for first responding police officers to ensure proper scene integrity at cases involving child deaths, homicides, and major crime scenes:

Day Two


Child Death Protocol

  • Definition of “Child Death”
  • Understanding what constitutes a child death
  • SIDS – The evolution of understanding into possible causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • Abuse Situations – Understanding what evidence to look for in possible abuse situations that may have lead to the death of a child
  • Requesting “Full Body X-Rays” at a hospital

Neglect Situations

  • Understanding what evidence to look for in possible neglect situations
  • Pediatric Records
  • Obtaining consent from parents for each facility/doctor that has seen the child

Child Care Facilities

  • Scene security at a child care facility
  • Cooperation of other involved agencies
  • Recognizing criminal vs. civil concerns of management

Major Crime Scene Management A. Establishing Perimeters

  • Understanding the function of inner perimeters and outer perimeters
  • Initial Witness Statements
  • Environmental considerations to initial statements

The Art of a Complete Canvass

  • Documenting residence profiles
  • Documenting target area profile
  • The optimum vehicle canvass

Officer Involved Shooting/In-Custody Death

  • Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights
  • Understanding primary issues upon initial arrival
  • Understanding attorney/client privilege as it relates to involved officer
  • Information to be elicited from initial officer upon arrival
  • Criminal vs. Administrative Investigation
  • Understanding the necessity for the separation of both investigations

Evidence Recognition/Photographing/Documentation

  • Defining Evidence
  • Understanding the difference between evidence and extraneous material
  • Types of Evidence
  • Understanding physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence
  • Photographing a Scene (Telling a story with your photographs)
  • Understanding the composition of long view, medium view, and close up
  • Digital vs. Film Photography – Understanding advantages and disadvantages associated to both
  • Documenting the Investigation (Painting a picture with your words)
  • Understanding words used to describe specifics as opposed to generalities

Witness Interviews

  • Separation
  • Understanding how to effectively elicit an uninfluenced statement
  • Monitoring
  • Understanding how to maintain control of witnesses
  • Recording
  • Understanding the importance of recording interviews
  • Psychological effect of overt vs. covert recording

Understanding officer demeanor and approach in a variety of death investigation situations

Case Studies of Death Investigation

  • People vs. Carrasco – The body of a homeless woman is discovered in an encampment
  • People vs. Jeshurin – A dependent adult is discovered deceased by her in-home caregiver

Question & Answer


  • I will continue to use and pass on this information because I really believe in the instructors and their approach.

    —Kimberly Meyer, Washoe County Sheriff's Department
  • This was, by far and away the best training I have received in 15 plus years of Law Enforcement. The instructors are experienced, engaging, articulate, and very entertaining. I will be recommending this training to multiple agencies.

    —Mark Paynter, Oregon DOC
  • Your training gave me the confidence and tools to interview the suspect for over 5 hours and to bring a closure to the case.

    —Daniel Phelan, San Jose Police Department
  • The information presented was highly relevant to my job and was presented in a manner that was organized and very easy to digest.

    —Michael McGarvey, California State Prison, San Quentin
  • Incredible training with amazing real world instruction. I have been taking law enforcement classes for over 30 years and by far this is the best presented and most useful.

    —Det. Brian Dale, Portland Police Bureau
  • This training by far has been the most informative and most effective I've attended. The instructors engaged the students in a manner that made me want to speak my opinion, ask questions, and participate.

    —Julio Ibarra, Merced County Sheriff’s Office
  • This was, by far, one of the most useful training classes I've attended since becoming an investigator.

    —Steven Aiello, Antioch Police Department
  • I highly recommend this training for any Probation staff who have the necessity to interview/interrogate individuals for investigation purposes.

    —R. Bret Fidler, Santa Clara County Probation Department
  • It not often that you go to a training that you really, really want to pay attention to. Because of the high quality information and style of presentation, I knew that if I looked away I was going to miss out.

    —Quinten Graves, Oregon State Police
  • Instructional style is engaging and highly effective.

    —George Laing, Fire Prevention Captain, Investigator
  • Effective teaching teams! The presentation of the material was consistently interesting, and intelligent without being too intellectualized.

    —Michele Keller, Deputy Probation Officer, County of Alameda
  • Your training has made the greatest and most direct impact on my assignment of any training class that I've taken.

    —Ken Gelskey, National City Police Department
  • This training provided the useful tools necessary for assessing the veracity of a suspected child abuser, which goes a long way in helping to protect children.

    —Sunny Burgan, MSSW, LCSW, Social Work Supervisor, Santa Clara County DFCS