When a death occurs in our county involving an inmate at a prison or county detention facility or when a person dies by the hands of law enforcement or in a situation with law enforcement involvement, we immediately begin the Coroner Review process. This process is a formal legal process used to establish the cause, manner, and mode of death. (We can waive this process if death was expected from natural causes).
The deaths of children under the age of 17 years are also reviewed (see Child Death Review below).
Officer Involved / In-Custody Death Review
The Coroner's Bureau works with officers and investigators from every law enforcement arm in the county; sheriff, police, railroad police, campus police, state prisons and hospitals, border patrol and the California Highway Patrol.
When a death occurs involving an inmate at a prison or county detention facility or when a person dies by the hands of law enforcement or in a situation with law enforcement involvement, a Coroner Review is immediately initiated. This investigation parallels the criminal investigation and is done to ensure that all facets of the death are looked at by professionals in the field of medical/legal death investigation. These reviews are done regardless of the city or law enforcement agency involved.
Review results are presented to the Sheriff by the Administrative Deputy Coroner, the Forensic Pathologist, and the Forensic Toxicologist with a summation at the end. Members of the Grand Jury, representatives of the District Attorney's office, and any law enforcement agencies involved in the death are also invited to attend.
Because cases often involve ongoing criminal investigations, Coroner Reviews are closed to the public.
The Sheriff-Coroner issues the cause of death and classifies the manner of death as a homicide, suicide, accident, natural or undetermined death. The Coroner Review in no way hinders the family's ability to have a funeral. Upon completion of an autopsy, the body is released to the funeral home of choice, usually within 2-4 days from the date of death.
Child Death Review
In 1992, California's legislature enacted laws to establish a multi-agency review board to review the deaths of children, by county, under the age of 17 years.
In Riverside County, the board is known as the "Child Death Review Team" or CDRT, and consists of representatives of the Sheriff-Coroner's Bureau (investigator, pathologist), the District Attorney's Office, Child Protective Services, a forensic pediatrician, Public Health Nursing Office, and representatives ofthe law enforcement agency conducting the local investigation. The purpose of the CDRT is to take a close look at each child death in Riverside County to determine
- (1) if the death could have been prevented
- (2) if there was criminal activity involved in the death an
- (3) if other children in the home are at risk.
The reviews are held monthly in the Sheriff-Coroner facility. This office is active in gathering facts concerning infant deaths classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Review Team (DVERT)
The Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Review Team (DVERT) is a multi-agency review board that is dedicated to the thorough evaluation of each fatality which falls under the committees review. DVERT is composed of a deputy coroner and forensic pathologist, from the coroner's bureau, and members of the district attorney's office, Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services, Emergency Medical Services, and any involved law enforcement agency.
The purpose of DVERT is the conscientious assessment of each death under its purview which may lead to increased awareness of trends within Riverside County, public education, prevention, investigation strategies, and prosecution strategies. As a key component of DVERT the Coroner's Bureau uses the information gleaned to expand our medico-legal investigation.