The Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR) Wednesday released a set a recommendations for the sheriff’s department to consider adopting in the wake of the controversial handling of the Mitrice Richardson case.
Richardson, a 24-year-old Los Angeles resident, was arrested and taken into custody at the Malibu restaurant, Geoffrey’s, after an issue involving paying the bill for her meal.
She was taken to the Lost Hills sheriff’s station in Agoura and released shortly after midnight on Sept. 16, 2009. About six and half hours later, she was found sleeping on the rear steps of a home in the Monte Nido neighborhood, which is located a bit over five-and-a-half miles from the Lost Hills Station.
Over the course of the next year, three organized searches were conducted and an unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras was used, but Richardson was not find.
Then a month shy of the one-year anniversary of her disappearance, local rangers discovered partial human remains in an area called Dark Canyon. Homicide and Search and Rescue personnel were airlifted to the remote site.
A trained team from the coroner’s office was supposed to be taken to the site as well, but the helicopter that would take them was diverted to two other emergency calls in the Angeles National Forest.
Procedurally, the coroner’s office is supposed to have personnel on hand to process the scene and direct removal of remains.
According to the OIR report, in the Richardson case, a decision was made to allow the sheriff’s department to remove the skeletal remains found, but there is a question of whether not the proper permission was obtained.
The report states that it was found that conditional approval was obtained for this first removal activity.
When additional remains were subsequently found, problems arose about whether the proper permission was obtained to move them. The report could not clearly state whether subsequent permission was given.
Six new recommendation have come out of the examination of the including case including:
*The department should provide training and advisement to its field units about the importance of immediate notification of the homicide bureau when a body is discovered. OIR office chief Michael Gennaco said there was an hour lapse before homicide detectives were notified that turned out to be significant.
*The department, particularly the homicide bureau, needs to become aware of coroner policies, their chain-of-command structure and the role and capabilities of the Special Operations Response Team
*At incident scenes, the sheriff’s department member in charge of the scene or command post must identify the coroner representative who has decision-making authority. Only representatives to whom authority has been clearly delegated should be relied on for making decisions.
*Sheriff’s homicide personnel should always be present when coroner personnel return to a scene for additional investigation.