CCSO adding civilian coroner position

Cascade County Commissioners included the new civilian coroner position in the sheriff’s office budget.

Sheriff Jesse Slaughter proposed the option in 2020 and renewed that idea this year.

The position is about $70,000 in the sheriff’s office budget and to fund it, the office reduced the coroner stipend for deputies by six.

They’ll also use some funds from opioid settlements and shifted some other funds to fit the position into this year’s budget, Slaughter said.

Slaughter said he expects the civilian coroner job to be posted in the coming days.

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Once the person is selected, they’ll have to complete the state’s 40-hour coroner certification course unless they’re already certified.

Slaughter said in the meantime, normal operations will continue with the certified deputies will continue working as coroners.

Once the new civilian coroner is hired, Slaughter said eight deputies will continue to hold coroner certifications and receive the $300 monthly stipend for the additional duty.

During the county budget meetings and in interviews Slaughter and Undersheriff Scott Van Dyken said that the additional coroner duty was a major factor in deputy retention.

Slaughter said the additional duty is hard on deputies and a civilian coroner, with a good salary, is still cheaper than a deputy.

Slaughter has been looking at creating a civilian coroner for several years.

He told The Electric that the county combined the sheriff’s office and coroner in 1970.

Slaughter said there are conflicts between the duties and that he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for coroner duties to be handled by law enforcement officers.

County exploring options for splitting coroner from CCSO [2020]

Slaughter said coroner’s role is to investigate the cause and manner of death, not determine who is responsible, which is the domain of the sheriff’s office.

About a third of the calls for CCSO are coroner calls, many of which are not criminal situations, and can take three to five hours, meaning a deputy isn’t available to respond to other calls, Slaughter said.

Coroners respond to any suspicious or unattended deaths, which include those who have been hospitalized for under 24 hours.

Creating a civilian coroner position will free up deputies to respond to more emergent calls, but he CCSO will eight deputies as coroners to cover any times the civilian coroner isn’t available or there’s a spike in calls.

Slaughter said his long-term plan is to create a civilian coroner division within CCSO as long as it’s a consolidate office.

In 2020, he asked commissioners to split the offices, but no action was taken.