The responsibilities of the Homicide Detail consist of investigating death-related crimes, officer involved shootings, missing person reports, and internal criminal investigations. The detail, with the support of two Investigative Assistants and an Office Specialist, effectively responds to and processes an abundant amount of cases. In addition, the supervising sergeant is available at all times in order to coordinate and expedite crime scene response. Investigators interact constantly with the District Attorney’s Office, the Crime Lab, the Identification Bureau, and the Coroner’s Office, as well as other outside agencies. The primary function of the homicide unit is the investigation of homicide related cases. These cases are sensitive, complex and often very labor intensive. The investigators assigned to this type of case must exemplify tremendous skill and experience in their field of work, in order to efficiently process these high profile assignments. Investigators assigned to a murder case work the investigation from crime scene to conviction. They write and expedite search warrants, collect evidence, conduct extensive interviews and interrogations, attend autopsies, perform death notifications, and assemble all reports required for case filing and prosecution.Homicide investigators are also assigned death investigations in which the patrol deputies or coroner investigator believes suspicious circumstances exist. These cases may ultimately prove to be natural deaths, suicides, or accidental deaths. It is the function of the homicide investigator to either include or exclude criminal wrongdoing.Officer involved shootings are also handled by homicide investigators. These cases vary greatly in type. The most serious are officer-involved shootings involving injury or death. In these investigations, if the shooter is a sheriff’s deputy, the primary responsibility for the investigation falls to the District Attorney’s Office. The criminal conduct of civilians involved in the case remain the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Department. All other officer-involved shootings, which occur in the jurisdiction of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, are also the responsibility of the homicide unit. These shootings may be either on-duty or off-duty incidents and can involve both injury and non-injury. The unit also investigates accidental discharges and off-duty shootings of outside agencies that fall within the Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction. Currently, the homicide unit is responsible by contract with the Huntington Beach Police Department for the investigation of all officer-involved shootings related to their department.
Internal Criminal Investigations
Internal criminal cases are very sensitive and confidential in nature, and both elements must be considered when conducting an investigation. Any information relayed to the wrong party could destroy a career or jeopardize the investigation. In past cases, crimes investigated by this unit consisted of sexual assaults, simple assaults, assaults under the color of authority, grand theft, petty theft, domestic violence, and burglary.
The primary responsibility for the investigation of in-custody deaths falls to the District Attorney’s Office. Investigators assigned to the homicide unit, however, work in conjunction with investigators from the District Attorney’s Office to process and file these cases. These investigators are present during all interviews and are also present during all post mortem examinations. In addition, Sheriff’s homicide investigators coordinate the response of the deputy coroner, the identification technician, the criminalist, and ensure that the District Attorney’s Office receives all relevant reports and medical records.
Missing Persons Investigations
Adult missing person investigations are the responsibility of one investigator and an investigative assistant. The State of California has mandated that a report be generated and an investigation conducted in every case pertaining to a missing person. While a good number of these cases clear quickly when the subject returns, some are more involved and require resources from both inside and outside of the homicide detail. These resources may include reserve deputies, the aero squadron, search and rescue teams, bloodhound, patrol, explorers and other investigative units. Regrettably, some investigations lead to the discovery of a deceased missing person. The cause of death may be accidental, suicidal, natural or by homicide. In these cases, the ensuing investigation is conducted within the jurisdiction where the body is found.