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Michigan State Police New Crime Scene Procedure: The Clergy

Having trained clergy members help at crime scenes is already in place in Flint and parts of Detroit.


Crime scenes are complicated places. They’re busy, and messy, and crowded. Wait… crowded? Yes, of course they’re crowded! Think about it….there are police officers, detectives, crime scene technicians, family members, witnesses, and you guessed it – watchers. Those curious bystanders attracted to the flashing red and blues, and by the nosy desire to know what’s going on around them. All in all, there’re a lot of people at the average crime scene. But not all of them know how to handle what’s going on.


Crime scene procedures can seem harsh to onlookers


This is where Michigan State Police would like the clergy to step in. Sounds strange, perhaps, but there’s a pretty good reason for it. According to Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Michael Shaw, for untrained people present at a crime scene – witnesses, family members and onlookers, police procedures can seem harsh and even cruel. For example, leaving a body uncovered for long periods of time after the death, and refusing to allow family members to collect items of value from the crime scene.


So what can the clergy do to help at a crime scene?


So how could the clergy help at crime scenes? By describing what’s going on to bystanders, and explaining procedures in a less formal and more humane way. According to MSP Lt. Shaw, members of the clergy can comfort people, while explaining what’s going on and why officers are doing what they’re doing. In essence, they serve as a liaison between law enforcement and bystanders at crime scenes.


Clergy, he says, help to bring calm to a stressful situation where an officer can’t. This is primarily because they have a time sensitive job to do. It demands their complete attention, and taking time to explain procedures and answer questions is a distraction. “Sometimes the family just want somebody to kind of lean on, and to have a shoulder to cry on. And when we’re trying to investigate, it’s hard to spare a trooper or law enforcement officer to perform that function.”


The program is already at work in parts of Detroit, and Flint


The use of specially trained clergy members at crime scenes by MSP is part of a program called CAUTION – Community Action United Team In Our Neighborhood. Faith leaders in the communities, and members of the clergy volunteer, and are then trained by police officers to prepare them for their duties at crime scenes. Training topics include Ministering in a Pluralistic Environment, Incident Response and Diffusing, Spiritual Resiliency, and Avoiding Compassion Fatigue.


The CAUTION program aims to foster trust and improve public safety by creating a two-way flow of information at crime scenes. The program is already in place in Flint and parts of Detroit, are officers there are equipped with lists of clergy members they can call when heading for a crime scene. However, MSP is hoping to expand the program to include Macomb and Oakland counties in Metro Detroit as well.


Do you need legal help in Metro Detroit, Grand Rapids or Lansing?


The Kronzek Firm represents people from all over MIchigan’s lower peninsula. We help clents caught up in criminal investigations, and fighting for their rights in criminal cases in Mt. Pleasant, Flint, Lansing, Jackson, Livingston County and many other cities in Michigan. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including weekends and holidays. Call us at 866 766 5245 today. We are here to help.


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