What Are the Responsibilities of the Police First Responder at a Crime Scene?

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First responders are typically law enforcement professionals who are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the crime scene while responding to any remaining threats. Before entering the scene, the first responder will have already logged any information received by dispatch. Once at the scene, first responders have multiple vital duties to attend to in a relatively short time span. These duties have to be carried out precisely and cautiously even while under pressure.

Survey the Scene

  • The first responder must check the scene fully for any remaining threats, notate entry and exit points, look for victims in need of assistance, and make observations about any vehicles, evidence, and the environment of the scene. First responders should also note whether or not any person or vehicle is leaving the immediate area or the scene. Should medical assistance need to be summoned, the officer will make the call.

Maintain Safety

  • First responders must identify any threats and neutralize them. This includes securing entry and exit points, ensuring the suspect is detained if still at the scene, and call for back up. The first responder will also contact necessary agencies in the event there are chemical smells, biological weapons or radioactive threats present at the scene. Suspects and witnesses should be secured and separated at the scene as well. This is necessary to protect the integrity of the scene and potential evidence.

Provide Emergency Care

  • First responders must assess victims for signs of life and provide any immediately necessary medical care. This could include CPR or assisting injured victims in exiting a potentially hazardous scene. Once professional medical assistance has arrived, the first responder guides them to the victim with minimal contamination of the crime scene and assist them with providing care to the victim without damaging evidence. In the event the victim may be unable to wait for medical care, the first responder will attempt to obtain and document the victim's "dying declaration." If injured victims are taken from the scene, the first responder will keep track of where they were taken.

Secure the Scene

  • The first responder will establish boundaries around the scene, entry and exit points and residual scenes. The scene will be roped off using crime scene tape or barriers, or using doors or gates that can be locked. The first responder will guard the scene from animals and humans who could damage or contaminate potential evidence.

Documentation

  • Starting with the dispatch call, the first responder will begin documenting the scene. This includes the address, victim(s) name, sights and smells, location(s) of victim(s), location of potential evidence. Once back-up or medical personnel arrive on the scene, the first responder will also document the names and entry and exit points of every individual who comes in contact with the scene or the victim(s). Every aspect of the scene as well as actions taken by the responder himself and other personnel on the scene must be documented. This document is used to brief arriving investigators and is maintained as a permanent record in the case file.

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