For decades, Baltimore has been infamously known as one of the, “murder capitals of America.”
And 12 autopsy technicians within the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at the BioPark on West Baltimore Street perform post mortems for all the homicides, as well as suicides and all other deaths from injury under unusual or suspicious circumstances for the entire state.
Their work has been showcased many times by Hollywood in television crime dramas like the “CSI” franchises produced by CBS.
But, despite the vital and difficult work they do, entry-level technicians in the state make just above the national poverty level, if they were providing for a family of four. Others that have been in the Office for decades don’t make much more than their less experienced colleagues.
The least experienced technician has been on the job for a little more than a year and she is paid $25,234 a year (pay grade 6-2). The entry level pay grade of 6 earns a salary of $23,584. The highest pay grade designation among the 12 autopsy technicians is 8-5; that one earns $31,536.
But, the most experienced technician, who has worked at OCME for 38 years was at a 7-12 pay grade at the beginning of 2014, earning $33,608.
“You have autopsy techs…who are applying for public assistance,” said Chelsea Scott, who has been a paid technician since 2010 and prior to being hired full-time volunteered in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) for a year.
All 12 of the state’s autopsy technicians happen to be Black.
“Autopsy (technicians), which is the heart of the job (at OCME) haven’t gotten a raise in over 20 years,” according to Scott. “So, that’s where it became a racial issue for me. That’s what made it stand out for me.”
Scott, a divorced mother of three (two of her children have graduated from college, the youngest is entering this fall), is the unofficial spokesperson for the 12 autopsy technicians who have attached their names to an on-line petition to be presented to Gov. O’Malley and the state legislature demanding increased wages for the work they do.
The AFRO contacted the OCME for a response to the assertions made by the 12 autopsy technicians, and Bruce Goldfarb, spokesperson for OCME said, “We don’t discuss personnel matters.”
The group is working with defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, who posted the change.org petition on his Facebook page.
“When I look at the situation, I see there are only 12 (autopsy technicians) and the 12 that they do have aren’t being treated fairly,” Gordon said. “It’s a lot of work for very meager pay,” added Gordon.
The attorney, who is representing the group pro bono concedes the race of the technicians is a factor that resonates with some more than others. But, he argues there is another issue that should be of concern to everybody.
“For those who disagree with racial analysis…Although it carries racial overtones, it’s not just a racial issue; it’s a public safety issue,” said Gordon who argues the administering of timely, accurate autopsies is an essential component in the criminal justice system. “We’re talking about getting criminals off the street and keeping them off the street,” he added.
Scott says she was motivated to organize the group to advocate for increased pay and better treatment at work when she saw a co-worker receive a plaque through inter-office commemorating 35 years of service at OCME.
“I’m trying to help somebody get up that has been down so long that getting up wasn’t on their mind, they just thought that was the norm,” Scott said.
“I want them to be respected and paid for what they do at the end of the day.”