Appendix B: Officer-involved Fatality Checklist

AuthorKen Wallentine
An officer-involved fatality (OIF), whether a shooting, traf-
fic crash, or other type of fatality, presents unique investiga-
tive challenges. In addition to the unique investigative
dynamics, an OIF generates additional, independent inves-
tigations by the county attorney, the venue agency (if the
incident occurs in a jurisdiction other than the involved
officer’s employing jurisdiction), an administrative investi-
gation, civil litigation or risk management investigation,
and potentially a federal investigation covering civil rights
issues. At least one investigation will focus on the question
of potential criminal liability for the death. Another will
examine whether agency policy was violated. Most inci-
dents will also cause a review to prepare the agency’s de-
fense for the probability of a civil suit against the officer(s)
and agency. These three types of investigation each will be
operated under a different set of legal rules.
One view of OIF investigations represents an adversarial
role for the involved officers and the investigators. Compe-
tent law enforcement administrators as well as police attor-
neys recognize that both the agency and the officer are best
served by two fundamental investigative values: first, the
investigation must be as thorough as possible, and second,
nothing should prevent the officers from receiving prompt
legal counsel as they participate in the investigative pro-
cess. The philosophy and methodology of an OIF investiga-
tion is beyond the scope of this book. This section presents
only a first responder’s guide for an OIF (
see also In-Custody
Death checklist
Initial Scene Response
First priority is to preserve life, then isolate any non-in-
jured suspects.
Protect the scene, protect the scene, protect the scene.
Treat like any homicide scene, establishing large primary
and secondary perimeters. Keep as many persons as pos-
sible outside of the perimeter.
Assess needs and request additional officers for trans-
port, isolation, and scene security. Don’t underestimate

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