Mandatory body ID before burial

I seem to be working out a lot of sad/interesting death memories/questions based on my previous post, but here goes:

Twenty years ago my best friend killed himself (depression/tall building); the widow and I got around the law requiring an autopsy in all non-“standard” deaths. The next morning it fell to me to ID the body at the New York Medical Examiner’s Office.

They brought out a Polaroid of his face for ID, all tucked in w/ fresh silk. In movies they always show the body for ID being pulled out of a long frigidaire palette.

Quest. 1: Was my case special, maybe because he was so banged up? Or does every place use Polaroids, and Hollywood again gets it wrong?

This is the question that has truly bothered me from those lousy times: At the memorial service before the burial three days after that ID (Jewish religious time limit), I stood in the back of the packed hall (one of the biggest and best-known in NYC). I stood next to the funeral director and the closed coffin.

Then, w/o so much as a how-do-you-do, he whips open the lid of the coffin, where my friend lay–looking far worse, I might add (Jewish religious law: no embalming)–for an ID.

The thing is, he opened the coffin in the hall, where people were still trickling in not two feet away, even there are side rooms off the main hall. It blew me away.

Quest. 2(a): Was he following government laws for ID at the last possible second to make sure they’re burying who their supposed to be burying?;
Quest. 2(b): Was he following regulations of some sort of a Funeral Directors’ Society for the same reason?;
Quest. 2©: Was he some sort of maladroit CYA dickwad?

I’ve participated in three funerals (grandparents on both sides), two in California and one in Ohio. Everyone’s Jewish. The two here in CA were both “traditional” - plain wooden coffin, we took turns sitting with the coffin for 24 hours prior to burial. In neither case did anyone open up the coffin to confirm identity of the bodies.

Amusingly enough when my grandmother’s coffin was lowered into the earth the lid was jostled loose. My dad’s cousin joked that she was wondering what all the commotion was and wanted to take a look. Her body was shrouded so it’s not like you could see anything but a little cloth though.

For the Ohio funeral (my Mom’s dad) he wanted an open casket but that was under normal funeral circumstances, not someone whipping open the lid to see who was really inside.

So I don’t think that there’s any governmental regulation requiring that behavior. Maybe there’s something particular to NYC but it sounds odd to me.