Is the County really looking to save money…or have the good ol’ boys from EPD finally disposed of the only independently non law “enforcement” office to look into the questionable deaths that EPD or other Law Enforcement have had a hand in?
This question is vitally important for Humboldt County. Now that the Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office have been merged, the way in which deaths are investigated will be completely changed. Law Enforcement investigates deaths in regards to whether a crime has occurred. The Coroner investigates what caused the death. That can be vitally important, especially in regards to in-custody deaths of inmates. In fact, the deaths of Martin Cotton and Daren Borges are perfect examples of why there should be an independent Coroner. Unfortunately, for the past decade two former Eureka Police Department detectives have held the job, and the credibility of the office has suffered.
During the time that both Jager and Parris were in office as Coroner, the drums of consolidation were beating. In fact, back in 2009 the Office almost went away:
For many people, switching a Coroner’s Office from being run by these two good ol’ boys to an office run by another good ol’ boy (Downey) isn’t that big a deal. And put in those terms, it isn’t much of a change. However, if Humboldt were to elect an independent Coroner who wasn’t connected with the local police there could be some sweeping changes in the way that in-custody and officer-involved deaths are handled. For instance, if some on dies in the jail and had bruising all over, a Coroner would include such findings in the official documents regarding the cause of death. The Coroner could call for an Inquest and question the officer and witnesses about the events that led up to the death. The public may be able to have a clearer picture of what causes the death of inmates or arrestee’s. And that’s just for starters.
The role of the coroner is broader in nature than law enforcement. The coroner is concerned with establishing the manner and cause of death in all unknown-cause deaths. The importance of the coroner’s investigation is not diminished if a crime has not occurred. The difference between a suicide and an accident can often be very important to the victim’s family. Many insurance policies will not pay off on a suicide. Also, some life insurance policies pay double or triple the value of the life insurance policy if the insured’s death is ruled an accident. Thus, the coroner’s role is more extensive than that of law enforcement officers.
If someone is slowly poisoned to death by a family member, law enforcement may miss it because the death was made to look like a suicide. A coroner, who’s only job is to find out what caused the death, may look a little deeper into what happened.
Losing this Office will end up being a complete disservice in Humboldt. Does anyone really think Sheriff Downey will do a good enough job investigating deaths in his own jail? Below are some links to stories showing the power that an independent Coroner has: