“Homicides, suicides, accidents, all those things,” said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.
That is just some of what Dr. Clark deals with on a day-to-day basis. He has been the head of the parish coroner’s office since 2012 after being elected in November 2011, but the job of the coroner dates back to 1190 A.D, in England with King Richard.
“He was really concerned that someone might steal the crowned jewels. So, he decided that he wanted to have a nobleman into his court and that person was the crowner, which led him to be called to coroner,” explained Dr. Clark.
The definition has changed over the years. Now, coroners are known for being there at a crime scene, but what does a coroner do?
“I have three jurisdictions. Most of the time when I quiz and talk to people about what I do, they say, ‘oh you’re the guy that picks up dead bodies.’ That’s the most common thing, but we do more than just pick up dead bodies,” said Dr. Clark. “We actually investigate why somebody dies, but we also have two other jurisdictions that most people may not know about. One being the involuntary committal of the mentally ill and the last being the collection of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases.”
Dr. Clark said the office has more than a dozen employees responsible for different tasks.
“We have trained death investigators that are here in the office for 12-hour blocks. They work a 12-hour shift. They deploy from here, much like a fire department. They’re ready if something happens, and then they go an respond to the scene,” explained Dr. Clark. “When it comes to death investigations, though the main role of the coroner is to determine if a crime has been committed in someone’s death, we’re part of the Judicial Branch of government. It’s our responsibility to make a determination whether their death involved a crime or not.”
Like Dr. Clark said the office works with more than just the dead.
“We investigate about 3,000 deaths per year, roughly, which is appropriate given the average rate of death that should exist in any community. However, for a mental health standpoint we do about 9,000 mental health cases here,” said Dr. Clark.
Some may not consider this a normal profession, but Dr. Clark said the end goal is to help the community. Right now, the coroner’s office has initiatives to work on issues like sexual assault, mental health and infant mortality.
“I can’t cure cancer, but I mean, if there is something I see out there that is 100% preventable, and especially if you can imagine the tragedy of losing a child. I think it’s time that we take steps and efforts as a community to prevent that,” concluded Dr. Clark.
If you want to learn more about the EBR Coroner’s Office, click here.