by Miranda Combs –
MOREHEAD, Ky. (WKYT) — The classroom was packed. Coroners and deputy coroners from all over the state met at the Carl Perkins Center in Morehead to update their training status. Some were there because of a WKYT investigation last year.
In May 2015, WKYT found eight coroners that were not up to date with their state certification. To be certified through the Department of Criminal Justice Training, a coroner and deputy coroner must complete an initial 40-hour training class, and then an 18-hour inservice every year after. “If they don’t have their training, they should not be doing postmortem examinations,” Henry County Coroner Jimmy Pollard said last year when WKYT’s Miranda Combs showed him the list of then-out-of-date coroners. “I’m dumbfounded,” he concluded.
Now, a little more than a year has passed, and a lot has changed. “I track the training from now on,” Pollard told Combs during the media training in service in Morehead.
“This is quite a change from when we first approached you last year, when we showed you the list and you had no idea?” Combs questioned. “It is a change,” Pollard replied. “As you remembered, when we talked last year, we were amazed these people didn’t have their training.” Pollard said after the investigation last year, he and the Kentucky Coroner’s Association got to work, writing legislation. “We looked at developing some legislation that would mandate and have some teeth to it, that would force these guys to get their training.”
He said they couldn’t penalize the coroners directly because they are elected officials, protected by the state constitution. But they could address the deputy coroners. Pollard and the association put together House Bill 434, which backs up the original law, by saying if a deputy coroner doesn’t get required yearly training, they are out of a job. “The meat of the bill says if you don’t get your training within the calendar year that you are required to do so, then at the end of that calendar year, January 1, you must resign your position as deputy coroner.”
The law went into effect July 1, 2016. Pollard said attendance at in service training are up. “It has been effective.”
If a deputy coroner fails to get yearly training and has to resign the position, they can be reinstated if they go back and do the original 40 hour training. “We thought, ‘Hey, that’s a start.’ If they couldn’t manage to get to an 18-hour class, they sure don’t want to sit through a 40-hour week.”
“We owe it to the people. This is our job. This is what we’re supposed to be doing. To keep up and do a good job in death investigations, it takes training,” Pollard said.
WKYT checked with the Department of Criminal Justice Training for an updated list of coroners and their training. The coroners McLean and Taylor Counties did not appear to have training in 2015, or so far in 2016.