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Psychological Autopsies Essay

2219 words - 9 pages

Psychological Autopsies
Jessica Foster
December 19, 2012
Kaplan University

As a police psychologist, you are part of an investigation into the homicide of a high profile community member, the mayor. The information you received from the department is that the victim was found with a single gunshot wound to the head. He was last seen with another notable figure at a nearby restaurant. You learn that before becoming the mayor, the deceased was the chief of your department and was very close to many administrators and officers.
Psychologists play many different roles in a law enforcement agency. A psychologist can perform as a consultant for the agency or conduct fitness ...view middle of the document...

A witness has gone through a traumatic event in which they may not remember everything at the time of the interview (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). A psychologist can make it easier for the witness to participate and not feel pressured or scared to talk (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). Psychologists tend to make people feel at ease and help clear their mind during an interview (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). A psychologist should always be the one in charge of a psychological autopsy (Loya & Selkin, 1979). Experience is needed in an autopsy in this is why a psychologist should be involved. It is important that all details are correct since the victim cannot tell us their story (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). An autopsy can help an investigation tremendously especially if it is a murder case (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). Not every murder case calls for a psychological profile, but should be conducted if the case is a high profile.
An autopsy determines if the death was an accident, suicide, or homicide by looking at the different aspects of the death (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). This is a process that evaluates the psychological aspects such as thoughts, behavior, feelings, and relationships (Ebert, 1987). The purpose of a psychological autopsy is to look at the circumstances around the time of death along with details of the person’s life (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). The one main goal of an autopsy is to find out how and why the victim died (Ebert, 1997). The results of an autopsy can potentially be beneficial to a homicide case and insurance companies (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007).
When conducting a psychological autopsy, there are four purposes that we look for (Ebert, 1987). Our first and main goal is to determine the mode of death (Ebert, 1987). Keep in mind that the mode of death and the mean of death are two separate things (Ebert, 1987). When we want to know the mean of death we are trying to find out how someone died (Ebert, 1987). When we look at the mode of death, we look at if the death was caused by an accident, natural causes, a homicide, or suicide (Ebert, 1987). The next goal is to find out why the death occurred at a certain time and date (Ebert, 1987). The death could have occurred because of the victim being in the wrong place at the wrong time, anniversary of a loved one, or because of a grudge against the victim (Ebert, 1987). Next we look at the motivation for the death (Ebert, 1987). The motivation for death includes intentional, sub-intentional, and unintentional (Ebert, 1987). The fourth and last purpose is to bring peace to the survivor’s family (Ebert, 1987). The autopsy can help bring closure to the family and help answer questions (Ebert, 1987).
When a psychologist conducts a psychological autopsy they should stay with the information gained from the crime scene (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). Typically that information is collected in the police report (Kurke & Scrivner, 2007). When looking in...

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