Coroner gains board certification
January 15, 2007
SUMMIT COUNTY Summit County Coroner Joanne Richardson recently became the first coroner in Colorado to become board certified as a medicolegal death investigator through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators.Richardson, the countys coroner since 2002, passed a five-and-a-half hour exam last month to gain the voluntary certification. She had already passed the organizations basic diplomate exam in 2003, which required she complete 300 tasks in 52 categories. The board exam relies heavily on cumulative experience and advanced training in medicolegal death investigation, which includes interviewing witnesses and suspects, writing narrative scene descriptions, and investigating specific, multiple, atypical and institutional death scenes, Richardson said. The ability to demonstrate leadership skills, legal knowledge and advanced forensic science knowledge is also considered, she said. Colorado law allows anyone to run for the office of coroner, including those without prior experience. Richardson said she thinks Summit County residents deserve a coroner with experience and advanced training. There is so much more to the job than people think, she said. You have to know the laws that pertain to the office, maintain a good working relationship with law enforcement agencies, train deputies, create and update guidelines, budget the office accordingly, be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.Richardson added that when called to death scenes, the coroner must identify the deceased properly, notify their family, write reports, perform case follow up, determine when an autopsy is needed and know when to report certain cases to state and federal agencies.Richardson employs three deputies. She has a bachelor of science degree in emergency health services and is halfway through her masters degree in forensic sciences. In October, her office became one of 10 in the country to be accredited through the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, a fairly new certification offered to smaller coroners offices.The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators strives to encourage adherence to high standards of professional practice and ethical conduct when performing medicolegal death investigations, according to its website.Eligibility for the advanced board exam included a college degree, letters of reference from the district attorney, the sheriff and a forensic science specialist.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.