Concerned about pictures of partially covered homicide victims lying on the streets of Baltimore, the city police commissioner ordered his staff to come up with a better way to shield the bodies from the public's eye.
The result: a new tent-like body cover made of steel tubing and black plastic that stretches 7 feet 4 inches wide and stands 21 inches high.
"It's portable, inexpensive, fits in the trunk of a car and covers any configuration," said Lt. Edward J. Boston, of the Police Department's construction and repair unit.
Yesterday, the department began distributing the new covers to the nine police districts and other police units. A total of 15 new body covers were made by the construction and repair unit.
Commissioner Edward V. Woods told his staff to develop a new body cover several months ago after viewing media accounts of slayings. He prodded his staff even more after seeing a photo in The Sun last week showing a partially covered shooting victim lying in a pool of blood.
"He had a blanket on him but his arm was sticking out and you could see the blood around the body," the commissioner said. "This isn't the way we should deal with the situation. This is a very traumatic experience for people. There are kids viewing this. . . ."
Deputy Police Commissioner Michael C. Zotos said murder scenes are "very graphic and depressing."
"This way we can handle it with a little more dignity," he said. "There are a lot of little children and neighbors. You don't want them finding a body lying there."
Murder victims are not immediately removed from crime scenes while homicide detectives conduct preliminary investigations or while police await the arrival of personnel from the medical examiner's office.
City police officials said they are not aware of any other departments that have designed their own body covers.
"These are unfortunate situations in our communities," Commissioner Woods said. "We need to keep this closed as much as possible."