The body of a stabbing victim lay on a Brentwood street overnight Monday before identification detectives arrived to process the scene, prompting questions over whether a recent change in staffing policy caused a delay.
The young, unidentified Hispanic man was found dead on Patton Street in Brentwood about 12:45 a.m. Monday , but his body remained in view for hours as horrified residents looked on.
At issue is whether a new policy, instituted by Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer on July 13, caused a delay when off-duty homicide detectives were not able to be reached.
Previously, the county paid for a homicide detective to be on standby from 1 to 9 a.m. to handle overnight cases; the new policy was designed to save money by doing away with the standbys, and instead requires police to call off-duty homicide detectives at home. If detectives had been reached, they would have been required to report to work, earning overtime.
Monday, homicide detectives couldn't be reached after the body's discovery. A homicide supervisor arrived at the scene at 2:05 a.m. and began to investigate. The detectives' union said it wasn't until about 9 a.m. that a detective from the identification section showed up to take fingerprints and photograph the crime scene. The body could not be moved until identification work was completed.
Dormer wouldn't say what time identification detectives arrived, but said that the new policy did not cause a delay.
"Standbys have to be there for when we need them," said Legis. Jack Eddington, who chairs the county's public safety committee. "The commissioner is trying to save so much money that I think [he's] lost sight of this."
Dormer defended his new policy, saying that the department's inability to reach any homicide detectives early Monday had no impact on the homicide investigation because two supervisors from the homicide squad did respond.
"As far as I was concerned, it was properly investigated and properly responded," Dormer said.
Ray Griffin, president of the detectives' union, said when a homicide detective is working on standby, the detective must be at home or near his home and ready to respond, typically, within an hour of the call for help.
If they are not on duty, Griffin said, homicide detectives may not be ready to work when called upon in the middle of the night or they may not be home.
"You can't just randomly call and hope you'll find somebody," Griffin said. "It's not a professional way of conducting police work."
Griffin said a crime scene such as the homicide in Brentwood typically would take about four hours to process.
Eight hours, he said, is too long and he blames Dormer's new policy for the delay.
Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick of the homicide squad said Monday's homicide scene took hours to process because of the amount of evidence that needed to be gathered. Covering the body prematurely, he added, could have contaminated the scene.
Monday afternoon, shaken neighbors congregated across the street from where the body was discovered.
"You could see his face, all the cuts, the blood," said Brian Manbodh, 19, who lives across the street from where the man's body was found.