Autopsy Initiative

Free Autopsies for Police Related Killings

Autopsy Initiative Definitions

The Autopsy Initiative (“Initiative”) applies to police-related killings and in-custody deaths, which are defined in detail below.  This Initiative refers to deaths that occur within the prison industrial complex. The prison industrial complex describes the “overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.” 




A police-related killing is not solely limited to acts of police but includes acts by various law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers are “responsible for enforcing laws, maintaining public order, and managing public safety.” Thus, a police-related killing includes acts by police officers, sheriffs, correctional officers, state troopers,  highway patrol officers , and other law enforcement agents.

 A police-related killing occurs when an individual “dies as a result of being shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper sprayed, tasered, or otherwise harmed by police officers, whether on-duty or off-duty.” If the officer is off-duty, the police must be acting in their law enforcement capacity or in a manner where a reasonable person would believe that the individual was acting as a police officer. A police-related killing includes the use of excessive force resulting in death or the use of deadly force. Excessive force encompasses “situations where government officials legally entitled to use force exceed the minimum amount necessary to diffuse an incident or to protect themselves or others from harm.”  Deadly force includes “force which a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death.” Deadly force includes but is not limited to, the use of a firearm, weapon, or instrument, which would “result in a high probability of death or great bodily harm.”

  1. Critical Resistance “What is the PIC? What is Abolition?”

  2.  Mapping Police Violence Database, “About the Data”

  3.  Find Law Staff, “Excessive Force and Police Brutality”,

  4.  10 CFR § 1047.7 



In-custody deaths include but are not limited to deaths that occur within a municipal or county jail, State prison, federal prison, boot camp prisons, detention centers, or other local or state correctional facilities including juvenile detention facilities. In-custody deaths include “deaths in which the circumstances of the death place the decedent in either direct or indirect contact with law enforcement such as incarceration, apprehension, and pursuit,” along with legal intervention deaths. Deaths in-custody encompass the “death of any person who is detained, under arrest, or is in the process of being arrested, is en route to be incarcerated, or is incarcerated.”

 In-custody deaths subcategories include “arrest, transport, booking, incarceration, and health care.”  An in-custody death during an arrest “takes place during a physical struggle to apprehend an individual.” Deaths that occur while transporting an individual from the scene to a jail or hospital fall into the transport subcategory of in-custody deaths. A booking involves the “time when an individual is transferred from the custody of the arresting officer to that of the correctional agency and is being processed and temporarily housed prior to placement in a jail cell.” Incarceration occurs when the individual is placed in a jail cell and “continues through sentencing into incarceration.” “If an individual is transferred to a hospital while incarcerated, he/she is still considered to be in legal custody.” However a death may not be considered in-custody “depending on the length of time the individual is hospitalized” and remains in custody. Pre-custody deaths may also meet the requirements of an in-custody death if “there is a perceived restraint of his/her freedom of movement.” “The pre-custody category includes all deaths that occur prior to the physical restraint associated with arrest (i.e. apprehension).” Pre-custody deaths may also include deaths that arise during an investigatory detention, an automobile stop, or an evidentiary search and seizure by a law enforcement officer. A seizure occurs when an “officer retrains the freedom of a person to walk away.” 


5. Policy & Procedure “University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Police Department”

6. Id. 606


8.  Id.

9. Id. at 607