Who is involved in the investigation?

Several teams of police officers are involved – Identification Unit, a supervisor and two teams of investigators from the Homicide Unit. Many individuals may be involved in the interviewing process. The Medical Examiner’s office is also involved. 

What is the role of the Identification Unit?

The Identification Unit is a team of three people who are responsible for processing the scene: 

  • an exhibit officer who collects and catalogues all the evidence

  • a photographer who photographs the scene and records a description of it in words

  • a supervisor who oversees the investigation

These specially trained police officers process all major crime scenes where there have been crimes against people. They process the scene for physical evidence and they record the scene with photographs and documented reports that wil be used in future hearings, inquiries and the trial.

The goal of the Identification Unit is to secure the physical evidence in order to identify the person who committed the crime and to bring about his or her conviction. By using physical evidence, the sequence of events can be reconstructed through the utilization of technology. For example, by using a computer program, the position of people in a room can be determined by looking at only three droplets of blood.

The exhibit officer and the interviewing officers send reports to the Crown attorney’s office. The officers continue to work on the case, to “fine tune” the evidence, to talk to witnesses and to follow up new leads. They continue to submit evidence to the Crown’s office. The Crown’s case against the suspect grows stronger and stronger.

What is the role of the Medical Examiner’s office?

Staff from the Medical Examiner’s office (usually someone with a nursing background) comes to the scene of the crime and pronounces the time of death before the body is removed. 

Following this, the medical examiner (who is a medical doctor and pathologist) performs an autopsy on the body and states the cause of death. This usually happens within the first 24 hours of the murder occurring. The findings of the medical examiner may help to focus the Identification Unit when it is looking for physical evidence.

Members of the Identification Unit are present for the autopsy. They photograph the physical evidence (the injuries sustained by the victim) and they document the injuries. Although the medical examiner prepares his or her own report to be used in court, the Identification Unit also prepares a summary of the autopsy. The photographs that the Identification Unit has taken will be used in court by the medical examiner to explain the injuries when testifying.

Who is responsible for conducing interviews?

Teams of homicide investigators conduct interviews at the same time as the members of the Identification Unit are collecting evidence at the scene. Members of the homicide team talk to people, ask questions and perhaps take statements from people about their involvement or knowledge of events prior to the murder. 

There may be several of these homicide teams who have the responsibility of interviewing different people. The questioning and interviewing may last for several weeks or several months until a suspect has been identified and arrested.

What is the role of the Crown attorney’s office?

The Crown assigned to the case reviews all the information and if there is enough evidence, a charge will be laid. It is the Crown attorney who has the authorization to lay a charge. The Crown attorney who lays the charge is not necessarily the Crown attorney who will be assigned to argue the case.

Mennonite Central Committee Canada. (2011). Getting through the maze: A guidebook for survivors of homicide.

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