Advocates of elder rights and disability rights are concerned that deficiencies in law enforcement policy manuals may be responsible for lax enforcement of abuse laws in California. Penal Code 368 defines crimes against elders and dependent adults. PC 368 also specifies fines, jail, and prison sentences associated with those crimes.
In many California jurisdictions, police duty manuals do not include any reference to PC 368. Those manuals do not instruct officers that abuse of elders and dependent adults are crimes.
Many duty manuals focus on Health & Safety Codes and Welfare & Institutions Codes, all of which are civil codes. Officers often tell families that abuse of their vulnerable loved ones is a civil matter, not a crime.
Victims are not protected. Perpetrators remain free to abuse with impunity.
Advocates sent the following letter to The Elder Justice Roadmap Project Steering Committee.
July 14, 2014
Dear Committee Members,
RE: Deficiencies in law enforcement policies facilitate elder abuse
Our letter of July 10, 2014 raised concerns that deficient law enforcement policies and procedures may substantially contribute to unbridled elder abuse in our communities. The dismal state of those policies may indeed be the largest contributing factor in law enforcement apathy toward abuse of elders and dependent adults.
Lexipol, LLC is the third party vendor that provides policy manuals to about two thirds of California's law enforcement agencies. Lexipol, LLC elder and dependent adult abuse policies make little mention of the Penal Code. Rather, investigating officers are instructed to report criminal abuse to social services agencies that have no enforcement authority.
6B Liberty, Suite 200
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Lexipol, LLC declined to communicate with us. The data below are based on our preliminary review of policies obtained through public records requests.
Lexipol, LLC Policies for California:
Domestic Violence (Policy 320)
· 8 pages
· 27 (87%) Penal Code cites
· 4 (13%) Civil Code cites
Child Abuse (Policy 330)
· 8 pages
· 22 (85%) Penal Code cites
· 5 (15%) Civil Code cites
Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse (Policy 326)
· 4 Pages
· 1 (5%) Penal Code cite
· 20 (95%) Civil Code cites
A patrol officer referring to a Lexipol, LLC policy manual will recognize that domestic violence and child abuse are crimes. Deficient guidance in Policy 326 may lead the officer to incorrectly conclude that abuse of elders and dependent adults is a civil matter. Families across California and the nation report that very response from law enforcement.
Many Lexipol, LLC manuals include Policy 326.4.2(d), which is highly prejudicial against families. Numerous caring family members report being arrested or threatened with arrest when they report abuse by a third party.
Officers may arrest a person without a warrant when probable cause exists to believe that the person has committed an assault or battery, whether or not the assault or battery has in fact been committed, upon an adult to whom the suspect is related by blood or legal guardianship… (Emphasis added)
Lexipol, LLC policies include no instruction to arrest nonrelative perpetrators of assault or battery. Those perpetrators abuse with impunity and retain their freedom to abuse again.
A few of California’s law enforcement duty manuals were developed independently, and those manuals more accurately reflect existing law and the legislative intent that elder and dependent adult abuse be treated as crimes.
Preferred Elder Abuse Policies (Not developed by Lexipol, LLC):
Foster City, CA – EA Investigations
· 4 pages
· 6 (100%) Penal Code cites
· 0 (0%) Civil Code cites
San Diego, CA Policy 3.29
· 6 pages
· 19 (95%) Penal Code cites
· 1 (5%) Civil Code cites
Orange County, CA Policy No 10-15
· 5 pages
· 8 (67%) Penal Code cites
· 4 (33%) Civil Code cites
An appropriately constructed model Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Policy for law enforcement agencies could be a substantial step toward improving law enforcement interventions and deterring abuse of elders and dependent adults.
In summary, many law enforcement jurisdictions lack appropriate guidance on elder and dependent adult abuse as criminal acts. Crimes are not appropriately investigated or prosecuted. Laws are impotent to deter abuse. A crucial first step toward deterring abuse of elders and dependent adults could be development of a model policy that accurately reflects existing law. We offer our preliminary data along with 100+ California policies to initiate that effort.
The July 14, 2014 letter above followed a July 10, 2014 letter to the Elder Justice Roadmap Project Steering Committee.
Readers may address their comments directly to the Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org