With a Master’s in Forensic Science, and 16 years of experience in the Coroner’s office, Kimberly Gin is not only passionate about her job, but committed to excellent customer service as well.
What does it take to work for the Coroner’s office? “In addition to well-rounded knowledge and experience in science and psychology, there’s also a humanistic component,” Gin said. “I’m proud of our entire staff who are exceptionally skilled at their job, and are dedicated to all facets of death investigation. The best part of our job is giving closure to families. The science behind what we do daily is interesting, but the real reward is helping the living.”
Because her department will interact with so many families in the County, Gin wants people to know about the Coroner’s services – what they don’t do, and what they do, including:
Thoroughly investigate and determine the identity of the deceased
Identify the time, place, cause, and manner of death
Search for next of kin and work closely with the Public Administrator's Office on estate matters
Deputy coroners, forensic pathologists, coroner technicians and administrative employees work 24 hours around the clock to make sure decedents are identified and an accurate cause of death is released as soon as possible. “In reality, it’s not like CSI,” Gin said. “We do the best we can, but accuracy takes time and it’s a common misconception that we always have definite answers in a matter of hours, like on TV. It all varies on a case-by-case basis.”
Not all deaths in Sacramento County need to be reported to the Coroner's Office. If someone dies at home, Deputy Coroners are contacted either by law enforcement personnel or fire personnel and the deputy decides if the death falls under the Coroner's jurisdiction. They either release the person directly to a funeral home indicating no jurisdiction or they respond to the scene. The same process occurs with hospital deaths. Deaths range from natural to homicide and even some people simply die at home with no family. Only about 20% of the cases reported require an examination. The office preserves property and evidence such as DNA and even clothing on cases of suspected homicide or hit and run motor vehicle accidents. Another misconception is that the Coroner's Office issues official death certificates. Though the Coroner's office plays a role in the process, it does not actually issue the final certificate.
But the services of the department extend even further including the less-known Indigent Burial Program. An indigent burial, which occurs once a year at a local contracted cemetery, is a burial for a decedent with either no family, without an estate, or a family financially unable to cover costs related to the passing of their loved one. Qualified families can apply for the program by contacting the Coroner’s office directly.
Gin expressed her pride in the program stating, “Our burials are about honoring citizens of Sacramento County with respect and reverence, while helping their families through the grieving process. For those without family, we are there to honor them in place of those who could not.”
Another unfamiliar service of the office is that of Mutual Aid. In the instance of a large scale catastrophe, the Coroner will work with the Office of Emergency Services to coordinate emergency assistance and resources for 11 jurisdictions around the Sacramento region. These services may include providing equipment and supplies, identifying the deceased, and dispatching staff in a disaster.
As a public service, Gin sometimes speaks at schools to youth interested in sciences. Her office also participates in review committees researching causes of death and making recommendations for changes which may reduce the risk of unexpected deaths. Office and morgue tours are restricted to qualified individuals, but the public can help with unidentified cases by looking through case information including known information, circumstances of death, and sketches on the Coroner’s website.
For more information or to find out how you can help, visit Coroner’s Office website or call (916) 874-9320.