Kitsap’s coroner’s office receives high praise

After a year-long process, the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office has been reaccredited by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.

Coroner Jeff Wallis believes undergoing the accreditation process is an effective way his office can be put under the proverbial microscope and be examined by an outside group to ensure his staff is doing top-notch work.

“We have a job where we have one shot to get it right,” he said. “It’s easy to have tunnel vision and look at your own work and say, ‘Yup, we are checking all the boxes.’ So, it’s important to be looked at by peers.”

He continued: “We had to have all of our policies, procedures, record keeping and our facilities audited. They actually flew two auditors out here to inspect our facilities and do a manual audit of certain reports. They go in and pull random reports from different types of death investigations that we have done and see that those meet international standards.”

The association is an 85-year-old organization that promotes excellence in death investigation through education and accreditation, according to the group. The accreditation process involved six months of advance preparation work and six months of auditing, Wallis said.

The association congratulated the coroner’s office for submitting to this level of review and meeting standards.

“When an agency elects to subject themselves to this process, it clearly indicates their desire to stand to peer review and demonstrates to the public and stakeholders a strong desire to provide excellence in service provision. The completion of this process indicates a professionalism and compassion by the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office,” the association says in a written release.

The accreditation lasts for five years. This is the second time the local office has been endorsed by the international group.

Earning the accreditation ensures the coroner’s office will continue to get partial autopsy reimbursement from the state, Wallis said.

The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office is staffed by seven deputy coroners, an autopsy technician and a forensic pathologist. In the past year, the office investigated 735 deaths. Of those cases, 80 percent involved death by natural causes, 10 percent were criminal in nature, and the rest fell into suicidal and accidental categories, Wallis said.