Lawmakers at Hearing Call for Quick Changes to OPS Investigations
On Tuesday, lawmakers at a California Senate Human Services Committee hearing called for immediate changes to the Office of Protective Services' investigative procedures at state institutions for residents with developmental disabilities, California Watch reports (Gabrielson, California Watch, 3/13).
Lawmakers are investigating OPS actions at five board-and-care institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties that serveÂ a combinedÂ 1,800 patients.
The facilities treat residents with conditions such as cerebral palsy, severe autism and intellectual disabilities.
The California Department of Developmental Services oversees OPS and the institutions.
Case files and legal documents from the last several years suggest that many incidents of patient abuse occurred at the five institutions, according to an investigation by California Watch.
TheÂ investigation found that detective and patrol officers from OPS did not properlyÂ evaluate many of the cases.
According to the report, 327 substantiated patient abuse cases and 762 unexplained patient injuries have been recorded at the institutions since 2006, but most of these incidents have not led to prosecutions (California Healthline, 2/27).
Lawmakers at the hearing called for various changes ranging from improving the training of OPS officersÂ to eliminating the agency.
Ric Zaharia, a consultant hired by the state to review OPS, said that potential crimes at state institutions might be best handled by a centralized office based at the facilities with staff trained to interview patients with intellectual disabilities.
Thomas Simms, a former California Department of Justice consultant, said lawmakers should follow a model that separates institution officials from the investigations.
Coby Pizzotti -- a member of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, the union representing OPS -- said that the police force should be separated from oversight in Sacramento. He said state officials are more concerned with maintaining a good record of care than following up on certain investigations.
At the hearing, state officials said they would implement OPS reforms within the next three months.
BrownÂ Announces OPS Changes
Gov. Jerry Brown (D)Â recently announced several OPS reforms, including:
- Improved training for officers and detectives;
- New standards for securing evidence and possible crime scenes;
- Automated tracking ofÂ injuries; and
- The hiring of an independent overseer (California Watch, 3/13).