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Elder Justice Roadmap: Advocates note deficiencies in elder abuse policies

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On July 9, 2014, the U.S. Government released the Elder Justice Roadmap. The document reviewed what we know and what we don’t know about elder abuse and elder justice. Advocates noted the report lacked a review of law enforcement policies and procedures.

Some advocates take the position that outdated or deficient law enforcement policies are at the root of law enforcement’s failure to curb elder abuse. Family after family tells of police officers and district attorneys insisting that abuse of their loved ones is a civil matter.

CEDAR sent the following letter to the Elder Justice Roadmap Committee. Readers may send comments to the Committee at

July 10, 2014

Dear Committee Members,

RE: Deficiencies in law enforcement policies and procedures facilitate elder abuse

Thank you for the Elder Justice Roadmap. The document contains excellent information and identifies a number of appropriate goals.

We wish to point out an area of concern that was not adequately addressed in the Roadmap. Many law enforcement jurisdictions have policies or procedures that imply elder abuse is a civil matter rather than a crime. Some jurisdictions have no elder abuse policy at all. We will use California as an example.

California leads the nation in proactive elder abuse laws. Penal Code 368 provides enhanced penalties for abuse of elders and dependent adults. However, less than 10% of law enforcement agencies have policies or procedures that reference the Penal Code. Over 90% of jurisdictions reviewed have manuals that exclusively or predominantly reference the Welfare and Institutions Code and/or the Health and Safety Code, both of which are civil codes. The result is that law enforcement in those jurisdictions operates under the incorrect belief that elder abuse is not a crime. Family after family reports police and district attorneys stating that abuse of their loved ones is a civil matter.

San Diego County and the City of San Diego are rare examples of jurisdictions that emphasize Penal Code 368 and the criminal aspects of elder abuse. We applaud San Diego County for their efforts to protect their vulnerable populations.

Lexipol, LLC, writes policy manuals for about 75% of law enforcement agencies in California. Their default elder abuse policy cites only civil codes.

The Riverside County elder abuse policy was last updated in 1987, prior to the creation of Penal Code 368. Riverside County is not in a position to provide appropriate guidance on elder abuse to its law enforcement personnel.

The Los Angeles County policy focuses on civil statutes related to elder abuse. Los Angeles County is not in a position to provide appropriate guidance on elder abuse to its law enforcement personnel. It is no surprise that families in Los Angeles County are routinely told that abuse of their loved ones is a civil matter. Indeed, the Los Angeles County District Attorney told this writer in 2013 that she considered false imprisonment and isolation of elders to be civil matters.

San Bernardino County has no manual that provides guidance for elder abuse complaints from members of the public. San Bernardino County is not in a position to provide appropriate guidance on elder abuse to its law enforcement personnel. In 2010 – 2012, a family reported kidnapping, false imprisonment, neglect, financial abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Sheriff’s deputies assisted the abusers in their efforts to imprison and isolate the victim from her family. Two deputies directly threatened family members. A Deputy District Attorney repeatedly told family, “There is nothing out of the ordinary.”

The Santa Clara County policy focuses on the civil statute related to elder abuse. Within Santa Clara County, the San Jose Police Department duty manual instructs offices to investigate elder abuse using the Department’s child abuse protocol. As would be expected, San Jose police officers ignored false imprisonment, isolation, and mental abuse of two elderly women in 2010 - 2012. A Deputy District Attorney repeatedly told advocates, “This is a civil matter.”

Santa Clara County practices improved due to investigative reports by the ABC7 I-Team in San Francisco. ( The County has yet to correct its deficient written policies and procedures.

We urge NCEA to encourage law enforcement agencies to develop policies and procedures that provide clear guidance that elder abuse is a crime. Over 90% of the manuals reviewed to date give the impression that elder abuse is a civil matter, thus having an affect opposite the legislative intent of elder abuse law. Deficiencies in those manuals are in part responsible for our elders suffering needless abuse and their families suffering needless anguish.

CEDAR has collected a number of policies and procedures from jurisdictions throughout California. We can provide those documents on request.



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