Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $999,894)
The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS’s) Census of Medical Examiners and Coroners’ Offices (CMEC) provides comprehensive statistics regarding the organizational structure, operations, policies and procedures, finances, and resources of the approximately 2,200 medical examiner and coroners’ offices (MECs) nationwide. In the United States, medicolegal death investigations (MDIs) are provided by MEC offices whose purpose is to determine the cause and manner of death. As such, MECs are valuable, unique sources of information to many stakeholders, including the federal government, local law enforcement, the court system, the public health community, and families. However, MEC offices are organized in a disparate system consisting of centralized state medical examiners, county coroners, county medical examiners, mixed county coroner/medical examiners, and other municipal offices. This structure has given rise to many challenges to understand the MEC system and its investigation of unnatural and unexplained deaths fully and to understand the resources, staffing, and budget needed to support death investigations across the county.
With the initial 2004 and 2018 CMEC administrations serving as a basis, the 2023 CMEC will include measures related to administration, budget, staffing, workload, and policies and procedures related to investigating deaths such as records and evidence retention and other relevant topics. An expert panel will determine new measures to be included on the 2023 instrument regarding emerging practices and issues that are of key importance to the MEC community. The 2023 CMEC survey will be administered through a flexible multi-mode survey approach that includes web, paper, and telephone response options and email, mail, and telephone prompting to reduce non-response. Deliverables will include a technical report that documents the data collection overall and the final data files and codebook, among others.
The 2023 CMEC will extend the national understanding of the MEC community and complement BJS’s data collections involving publicly funded forensic crime laboratories and law enforcement core statistics. RTI and its partnerships provide expert knowledge of MEC organizations, current challenges and trends, and insight into solutions that the 2023 CMEC will address. RTI has the support of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners and the National Association of Medical Examiners, who will help promote the survey to the field.