California Watch: Broken Shield http://californiawatch.org/project/broken-shield/feed en Head of California’s troubled developmental services agency to retire http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/head-california-s-troubled-developmental-services-agency-retire-18870 Public Safety Broken Shield Thu, 29 Aug 2013 00:03:09 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18870 at http://californiawatch.org California auditor: Developmental center police failed to protect patients http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/california-auditor-developmental-center-police-failed-protect-patients-18869 Public Safety Broken Shield Tue, 09 Jul 2013 15:20:49 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18869 at http://californiawatch.org CIR’s California Watch again named finalist for Pulitzer Prize http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/cir-s-california-watch-again-named-finalist-pulitzer-prize-18859 <p>For the second year in a row, the Center for Investigative Reporting&rsquo;s California Watch today was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize &ndash; this time for uncovering systemic failures in protecting residents at the state&rsquo;s developmental centers.</p><p>The California Watch series Broken Shield was a finalist in the public service category. The award went to the South Florida Sun Sentinel for its story on speeding police officers.</p><p>&ldquo;This series truly gave a voice to the voiceless and held the government accountable,&rdquo; said CIR&rsquo;s Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal. &ldquo;The results of the series have been extraordinary. Being recognized as a finalist is a terrific achievement. We are very proud of the newsroom.&rdquo;</p><p>Added Editorial Director Mark Katches: &ldquo;Our main objective for telling these stories is to draw attention to a problem &ndash; and that attention has already produced significant results for the residents of the state&rsquo;s developmental centers.&rdquo;</p><p>The series &ndash; which had already won the George Polk Award, top honors from the Online News Association and two awards from Investigative Reporters &amp; Editors &ndash; &nbsp;has prompted far-reaching change, including a criminal investigation, staff retraining and new laws.&nbsp;</p><p>Reporter Ryan Gabrielson&rsquo;s 18-month investigation about the Office of Protective Services snowballed over the course of 2012 &ndash; resulting in five major installments from February to November. The police force was set up specifically to protect the developmentally disabled living in the state&rsquo;s five remaining board-and-care centers. But Gabrielson found that the department&rsquo;s officers and detectives often fail to secure crime scenes and routinely delay interviews with key witnesses and suspects &ndash; leading to an alarming inability to solve crimes.&nbsp;</p><p>Gabrielson detailed that dozens of women were sexually assaulted inside state centers, but police investigators didn&rsquo;t order &ldquo;rape kits&rdquo; to collect evidence, a standard law enforcement tool. Police waited so long to investigate one sexual assault that the staff janitor accused of rape fled the country. The police force&rsquo;s inaction also allowed abusive caregivers to continue molesting patients &ndash; even after the department had evidence that could have stopped future assaults.</p><p>In one egregious physical abuse case, a caregiver was suspected of using a Taser to inflict burns on a dozen patients. Yet the internal police force waited at least nine days to interview the caregiver, who was never arrested or charged with abuse. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In addition to Gabrielson, several staff members in the newsroom contributed to the project &ndash; most notably Agustin Armendariz, who provided data analysis; Carrie Ching, who produced two videos for the series; Monica Lam who produced a broadcast video distributed to TV partners; and Robert Salladay, who edited the project along with Katches.</p><p>Last year, California Watch was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the local reporting category for its series On Shaky Ground, about faulty seismic safety oversight at K-12 schools.</p> Public Safety Department of Developmental Services Office of Protective Services patient abuse Pulitzer Prize Broken Shield Mon, 15 Apr 2013 19:05:21 +0000 California Watch 18859 at http://californiawatch.org Lawmakers mull next steps for developmental centers http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/lawmakers-mull-next-steps-developmental-centers-18858 <p>SACRAMENTO &ndash; State lawmakers weighed today whether to appoint an inspector general to oversee state centers for the developmentally disabled and close a center in Sonoma where patients suffered the worst instances of abuse, neglect and sexual assaults.</p><p>During a daylong hearing, members of a Senate budget subcommittee on health and human services heard testimony from state officials and advocates for the developmentally disabled but did not indicate what action they might take.</p><p>The proposal to create an inspector general met with opposition from the Department of Developmental Services, which objected to its cost. The idea also found little support among advocates and family members of the disabled, who say the state-run centers should be shut down.</p><p>The influential state&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2013/ss/hhs/health-human-services-022713.aspx#Department_of_Developmental_Services" target="_blank">Legislative Analyst&rsquo;s Office recommended</a>&nbsp;in its budget analysis that the Legislature create an independent Office of Inspector General to oversee the five developmental centers at a cost of $500,000 to $1 million. The inspector general would have the authority to review patient complaints, conduct audits, investigate allegations of wrongdoing and help prosecute individuals who threaten patients or staff.</p><p>Shawn Martin, representing the Legislative Analyst&#39;s Office, testified that a new layer of oversight is needed because having the Department of Developmental Services responsible for its own facilities hasn&#39;t worked.</p><p>&ldquo;They have to be independent in order to be effective,&rdquo; Martin said.</p><p>But Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, the most outspoken member of the Senate budget subcommittee, indicated he would favor shutting the troubled Sonoma Developmental Center and moving patients to a new center.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We really need to look at Sonoma&rsquo;s facility,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;For both the existing clientele and future residents, it&rsquo;s worth considering whether to sell and move the center to another location.&rdquo;</p><p>His comments drew cheers from dozens of families of people with disabilities who packed the Capitol meeting room for the hearing.</p><p>The senators were debating the future of the state&rsquo;s five developmental centers after an 18-month investigation by California Watch detailed chronic abuse and a breakdown in oversight. The centers house about 1,600 patients with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and severe autism.</p><p>The California Watch investigation found 36 cases of alleged rape and molestation at the centers, with one-third of the rapes occurring at the Sonoma Developmental Center, the largest board-and-care center in the state.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services, the internal police force assigned to protect residents of the state facilities, routinely mishandled cases by failing to collect evidence, waiting too long to interview witnesses or suspects, and not ordering rape kits in cases of alleged sexual assault, California Watch found.</p><p>The stories prompted&nbsp;a <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/256286-justicedept-lanterman-findings.html#document/p11/a35580" target="_blank">citation by the U.S. Department of Justice&#39;s Civil Rights Division</a>&nbsp;and caused the state to strip the Sonoma Developmental Center of its primary license to operate in December. The loss of state certification in Sonoma means California taxpayers will lose tens of millions of dollars in federal funding that is contingent on assurances the facility is properly managed.</p><p>Among those who testified at the budget hearing was Terri Delgadillo, director of the Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the five centers.</p><p>She told the crowded hearing room that her department made major changes in overseeing the Sonoma center after the abuses came to light, including replacing top officials in Sonoma. She said&nbsp;46 employees have been disciplined as a result of complaints, the center has created a new electronic incident reporting system and staff members have been trained on sexual assault response.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re heading in the right direction and feeling positive, but there&rsquo;s still a lot to be done,&quot; she said.</p><p>Nevertheless, she opposed the appointment of an inspector general, saying the department could not afford it within its proposed $4.9 billion annual budget.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a lot of oversight today &ndash; state licensing, federal licensing, disability rights groups audits, professional licensing boards,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I do struggle with how we will pay for (an inspector general). The way we got to the problems at Sonoma today was unallocated reductions in our budget. I don&rsquo;t know where you get the resources.&rdquo;</p><p>Before the hearing, more than 100 protesters wearing painted T-shirts and signs emblazoned with the words &ldquo;equality for all&rdquo; gathered on the steps of the Capitol and called on the Legislature to shut down the centers.</p><p>&ldquo;It is stunning and spine-chilling to know the state allows &ndash; and taxpayers fund &ndash; this outrageous abuse,&rdquo; said Kiara Hedglin, an advocate with the group Seeking Equality through Education and Demonstration who has developmental disabilities. &ldquo;To fix the problems, the state must shut down the developmental centers. They are decaying institutions with an alarming record of abuse that demonstrates an astounding, appalling and atrocious standard of care.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>While disability rights advocates lauded the push for heightened oversight of the developmental centers, they said it was not enough. The only solution, they argued, was shutting the centers.</p><p>Kim Williams, who has cerebral palsy, said she was born in a state-run institution and lived at the Sonoma Developmental Center for five years. She told her story of her time at Sonoma on the steps of the state Capitol, calling Sonoma a &ldquo;hellhole.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I felt like a prisoner, but I never committed any crime,&rdquo; Williams said, communicating through a speaking device. &ldquo;I knew I wanted freedom, and I knew I had to leave. If I had to go back, I&rsquo;d take my own life.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>After the hearing, DeSaulnier was more direct in calling for an end to the state-run centers.</p><p>&quot;Personally, I would do away with the developmental centers,&quot; he told California Watch. &quot;They are a big investment based on a 1950s model. They&#39;re not working.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>He said the Sonoma Developmental Center should be shut down and relocated to a facility that was less costly and better able to provide care to patients.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;When you have a campus like Sonoma that is a huge fixed asset for the state that is only half-used, it makes no sense financially,&quot; DeSaulnier said. &quot;And when you factor in the other problems like abuse and neglect, it&#39;s just stupid to keep it open as is.&quot;&nbsp;</p> Health and Welfare Daily Report Department of Developmental Services Office of Protective Services patient abuse Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Fri, 12 Apr 2013 02:09:00 +0000 Amy Julia Harris 18858 at http://californiawatch.org Max Whittaker/For California Watch People with developmental disabilities and their supporters call on lawmakers to shut down the state's developmental centers.  Independent oversight proposed for developmental centers http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/independent-oversight-proposed-developmental-centers-18856 <p>The state&rsquo;s influential legislative analyst is recommending that the California Legislature create an independent Office of Inspector General to monitor state developmental centers where police failed to properly investigate patient deaths, abuse, sexual assault and neglect.</p><p>The proposal from the Legislative Analyst&rsquo;s Office comes in response to an 18-month investigation by California Watch into rapes and other instances of patient abuse at the Sonoma Developmental Center and four other board-and-care centers around the state.</p><p>&ldquo;Given the vulnerable nature of the population served by the Developmental Centers, and the ongoing nature of the health and safety problems that have plagued the Developmental Centers for more than a decade, we believe such additional oversight in the form of an Office of Inspector General is warranted,&rdquo; the analyst&rsquo;s office said in its budget analysis for the coming fiscal year.</p><p>A Senate budget subcommittee on health and human services is scheduled to discuss the proposal Thursday.</p><p>In its investigation, California Watch found 36 cases of alleged rape and molestation at the centers, which house more than 1,600 patients with severe disabilities. The investigation also uncovered allegations that a state worker used a Taser to inflict burns on a dozen patients at the Sonoma Developmental Center.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services, the internal police force assigned to protect residents of the state facilities, routinely mishandled cases by failing to collect evidence, waiting too long to interview witnesses or suspects, and not ordering rape kits in cases of alleged sexual assault.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2012, a series of reports by California Watch reported suspicious investigative practices that were conducted in response to major crime investigations, including of suspicious deaths, at a number of Developmental Centers,&rdquo; the legislative analyst&rsquo;s office said. &ldquo;The series brought into question the training and qualifications of the Office of Protective Services&rsquo; investigators and their ability to handle DC (developmental center) cases.&rdquo;</p><p>The analyst&rsquo;s office recommended the creation of an Office of Inspector General to address breakdowns in oversight and &ldquo;safeguard the integrity of the state&rsquo;s developmental center system.&rdquo;</p><p>The new office would cost $500,000 to $1 million, the analyst&rsquo;s office estimated. The inspector general would have the authority to conduct a formal review of patient complaints at developmental centers, investigate allegations of wrongdoing and work with local law enforcement to prosecute individuals who threaten patients or staff.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services declined to comment on the proposal and referred questions to the Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the centers. A spokeswoman for the department had no comment.</p><p>Only one other department in California, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, has an independent oversight agency.</p><p>The series of stories by California Watch prompted the state to adopt stricter policies to protect patients, install a new top administrator at the Sonoma Developmental Center and assign the California Highway Patrol to oversee policing of that center.</p><p>Also in response to the articles, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two laws aimed at better protecting patients living in the centers. A third bill, which passed the Senate Human Services Committee on Tuesday, would mandate that rape kit examinations be conducted if a patient at any state-operated institution accuses an employee of sexual assault.</p> Health and Welfare Daily Report Department of Developmental Services Office of Protective Services Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Thu, 11 Apr 2013 00:19:46 +0000 Amy Julia Harris 18856 at http://californiawatch.org Monica Lam/California Watch The Office of Protective Services is an in-house police force at California's developmental centers. Broken Shield series wins two IRE awards http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/broken-shield-series-wins-two-ire-awards-18851 <p>The Center for Investigative Reporting&rsquo;s California Watch today scored two top national awards from <a href="http://ire.org/awards/ire-awards/winners/2012-ire-award-winners/" target="_blank">Investigative Reporters and Editors</a> for a series that exposed shoddy practices by an internal police force patrolling California&rsquo;s developmental centers for the disabled.</p><p>The series, <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">Broken Shield</a>, won the IRE Award for best multiplatform investigative reporting in the medium-size category. The series also won the Gannett Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism &ndash; the only IRE award that comes with a significant cash prize. The Gannett Award is open to news organizations of any size.</p><p>It was the second consecutive year that California Watch has won the Gannett Award, making it the first news organization to have won the award twice.</p><p>The series is noteworthy because CIR and California Watch produced it for newspapers, broadcast TV stations, public radio stations and an online audience. California Watch also held public forums and distributed postcards summarizing the story to residents near some of the state&rsquo;s developmental centers.</p><p>&ldquo;This day is doubly sweet for us,&rdquo; said CIR Editorial Director Mark Katches. &ldquo;Winning these two awards from IRE means a lot to our newsroom because we are being honored by our peers for work in text, video, multimedia and radio, in addition to being honored for our innovative approach to storytelling.&rdquo;</p><p>Broken Shield already has won a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/cir-s-california-watch-wins-polk-award-second-straight-year-18812" target="_blank">George Polk Award</a> for state reporting and an <a href="http://journalists.org/2012/09/24/2012-online-journalism-award-winners-announced/" target="_blank">Online Journalism Award</a> from the Online News Association for investigative journalism. Reporter Ryan Gabrielson, who wrote the series, also won the <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/gabrielson-wins-top-honor-police-reporting-18829" target="_blank">Al Nakkula Award</a>, which recognizes the top police reporting in the country.</p><p>It will be a whirlwind week for Gabrielson, who will be in New York to accept the Polk Award on Thursday. He will then fly to Colorado to pick up the Nakkula Award on Friday. And later this week, he will be a featured speaker at the 7th annual Reva &amp; David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium at UC Berkeley. The IRE awards will be presented at a banquet in San Antonio in June, coinciding with the organization&rsquo;s annual training conference.</p><p>Broken Shield was an 18-month investigation that uncovered systemic failures at the Office of Protective Services and prompted a criminal investigation, two new laws, staff retraining, policy changes and a management shake-up.</p><p>A third bill was introduced when the state Legislature returned to work earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;The series has had a tremendous impact, in no small part because we distributed the stories on all platforms, helping us to reach a larger audience,&rdquo; said CIR Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal.</p><p>Broken Shield detailed widespread abuses inside the state&rsquo;s five developmental centers. Gabrielson found that the police force charged with protecting some of the state&rsquo;s most vulnerable wards almost never gets to the bottom of the abuses. Officers and investigators routinely wait too long to start investigations and fail to collect evidence.</p><p>Gabrielson found that <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">36 documented rapes had occurred</a> at these state facilities in recent years, but the Office of Protective Services didn&rsquo;t order a single &ldquo;rape kit&rdquo; examination &ndash; a standard law enforcement investigatory tool.</p><p>Last year, California Watch also won two IRE awards, including an IRE Medal and the Gannett Award, for its <a href="http://californiawatch.org//earthquakes" target="_blank">On Shaky Ground</a> series.</p><p>Besides the Gannett Award, no IRE award category comes with more than a $500 cash prize. Most of the award categories have no cash prizes.</p><p>The Center for Investigative Reporting plans to use the $5,000 cash prize for the Gannett Award to help send staffers to the annual IRE conference for training.</p><p>In addition to Gabrielson, contributors to the Broken Shield series who are named on the award are: Agustin Armendariz, Monica Lam, Michael Montgomery, Carrie Ching, Joanna Lin, Emily Hartley, Marie McIntosh, Nikki Frick, Christine Lee, Meghann Farnsworth, Cole Goins, Mia Zuckerkandel, La Toya Tooles, Robert Salladay, Mark Katches, Lauren Rabaino, Marina Luz and Brian Cragin.</p><p>In addition to the two awards for Broken Shield, <a href="http://baycitizen.org" target="_blank">The Bay Citizen</a>, California Watch&#39;s sister site, was named a finalist in the multiplatform category for small news organizations for detailing the plight of <a href="http://cironline.org/projects/returning-home-battle" target="_blank">veterans who face long waits for disability benefits</a>. The series was written and reported by Aaron Glantz. It was edited by Amy Pyle and Peter Lewis. Other staffers and contributors named on the award are Shane Shifflett, David Suriano, Brian Cragin and Lonny Shavelson.</p> Public Safety Newsroom Broken Shield Wed, 10 Apr 2013 15:17:34 +0000 California Watch 18851 at http://californiawatch.org Investigative Reporters and Editors Join our discussion on Pomona's developmental center http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/join-our-discussion-pomonas-developmental-center-18845 <p>California Watch invites you to share your insights and experiences regarding the Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. On April 3, reporter Ryan Gabrielson, who has covered the state&rsquo;s developmental centers in his series <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield">Broken Shield</a>, will participate in a discussion on topics ranging from the closure of the Lanterman Developmental Center to soaring overtime pay for the centers&#39; police force.</p><p>What does this development&nbsp;mean for the city of Pomona, the developmental&nbsp;center and its patients,&nbsp;and the people who live&nbsp;in surrounding&nbsp;communities?</p><p>We invite stakeholders to discuss this and other questions. The conversation will be moderated by Joaquin Alvarado, chief strategy officer for the <a href="http://www.cironline.org" target="_blank">Center for Investigative Reporting</a>, the parent organization of California Watch. Gabrielson will discuss his investigative findings and answer questions.</p><p><strong>Details</strong></p><p><strong>When:</strong> April 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m.</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> UC Riverside Extension campus, Conference Room A</p><p>1200 University Ave., Riverside</p><p>$5 parking on-site</p><p><strong>RSVP:</strong>&nbsp;This event is free to the public, but registration is required:&nbsp;<a href="http://lantermandc.eventbrite.com/" target="_blank">http://lantermandc.eventbrite.com</a>.</p> Health and Welfare Daily Report Department of Developmental Services Office of Protective Services patient abuse Broken Shield Tue, 26 Mar 2013 01:20:48 +0000 Marie McIntosh 18845 at http://californiawatch.org Gabrielson wins top honor for police reporting http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/gabrielson-wins-top-honor-police-reporting-18829 <p>Reporter Ryan Gabrielson has won a national award for excellence in police reporting for exposing the shoddy practices of an internal police force patrolling California&rsquo;s developmental centers for the disabled.</p><p>Gabrielson, who covers law and order for California Watch and its parent organization, the <a href="http://www.cironline.org" target="_blank">Center for Investigative Reporting</a>, won the 2013 Al Nakkula Award, named after a former Rocky Mountain (Colo.) News police reporter known for his dogged journalism. The award is presented by the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Denver Press Club.</p><p>Gabrielson won for his series <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">Broken Shield</a>, an 18-month investigation that uncovered systemic failures at the Office of Protective Services and prompted a criminal investigation, two new laws, staff retraining, policy changes and a management shake-up. A third bill was introduced last month.</p><p>He detailed widespread abuses inside the state&rsquo;s five developmental centers. He also found that the police force charged with protecting some of the state&rsquo;s most vulnerable wards almost never gets to the bottom of the abuses. Officers and investigators routinely wait too long to start investigations and fail to collect evidence. Gabrielson found that 36 documented rapes had occurred at these state facilities in recent years, but the Office of Protective Services didn&rsquo;t order a single &ldquo;rape kit&rdquo; examination &ndash; a standard law enforcement investigatory tool.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a tremendous recognition of Ryan&rsquo;s outstanding work,&rdquo; said Mark Katches, the Center for Investigative Reporting&rsquo;s editorial director. &ldquo;The Nakkula award honors the very best reporting in the nation focused on law enforcement.&rdquo;</p><p>Broken Shield has already been honored this year with the <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/cir-s-california-watch-wins-polk-award-second-straight-year-18812" target="_blank">2013 George Polk Award</a> for state reporting. The first three installments of the eventual five-part series also won an Online News Association award for best investigative reporting in September.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This project had excellent reporting, clear and emotional writing and a definite positive impact,&rdquo; on public policy, said contest judge Sandy Graham.</p><p>Added judge Kevin Flynn: &ldquo;It was an exhaustive and thorough investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>Until now, the award has been given only to a newspaper reporter.</p><p>Online investigative organizations like the Center for Investigative Reporting&rsquo;s California Watch &ldquo;are a very important trend as traditional newspapers cut back on staff&rdquo; and seek collaborators, contest judge Tustin Amole noted.</p><p>Graham, Amole and Flynn are all former colleagues of Nakkula.</p><p>Gabrielson will receive a $2,000 prize. Second place in the contest went to Peter Dujardin, a reporter at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., for his series &ldquo;Selling Smoke,&rdquo; about a 19-month, $4 million police sting that failed to generate a single arrest.</p> Public Safety Newsroom Broken Shield Tue, 12 Mar 2013 15:05:37 +0000 California Watch 18829 at http://californiawatch.org New director to take over troubled Sonoma disability center http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/new-director-take-over-troubled-sonoma-disability-center-18827 <p>A former employee of the Sonoma Developmental Center has been tapped to head California&rsquo;s largest full-time care facility for the severely disabled, at a time when the institution is struggling to reinvent itself in the wake of patient abuse scandals.</p><p>The Department of Developmental Services announced Wednesday that Karen Faria, who worked at the Sonoma Developmental Center from 1985 to 2005, will become the embattled facility&#39;s latest executive director starting April 1.</p><p>The appointment comes in the wake of a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">California Watch series</a>&nbsp;that uncovered serious allegations of patient abuse at the Sonoma Developmental Center. The reported abuses included cases of rape and molestation as well as allegations that a state worker used a Taser to inflict burns on a dozen patients.</p><p>The California Watch investigation exposed these cases and focused on failures of an internal police force to get to the bottom of the abuses. One-third of the 36 alleged rapes occurred at the Sonoma board-and-care center &ndash; one of five such facilities in California that house about 1,600 patients with severe disabilities.</p><p>But the state Office of Protective Services, a unique internal police force set up exclusively to protect residents of these state centers, routinely mishandled cases &ndash; waiting too long to interview witnesses or suspects and failing to collect evidence. In the alleged sex assaults reported at these state facilities, the police force never ordered a &ldquo;rape kit,&rdquo; a standard law enforcement investigatory tool. After a state worker was accused of using a stun gun to inflict burns on a dozen severely autistic male patients, the police force waited at least nine days to interview the suspect, who was never charged with a crime.</p><p>The series sparked new polices, a complete retraining of the police force, leadership changes and a criminal investigation by the Sonoma County district attorney&rsquo;s office into the stun gun abuses.</p><p>The series also led to two new laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown designed to bring greater protections to the severely disabled living in these state centers. A third bill, introduced last month, would mandate that rape kit examinations be conducted if a patient at any state-operated institution accuses an employee of sexual assault.</p><p>SB 651 written by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would require the exam be performed &ldquo;at an appropriate facility off the grounds of the developmental center or state hospital.&quot;</p><p>In addition,&nbsp;the state revoked the Sonoma facility&#39;s primary license to operate, threatening a loss of millions of dollars in federal support.&nbsp;</p><p>Faria&#39;s appointment is the latest move to make changes at the center.</p><p>&ldquo;I am thrilled that Ms. Faria is returning to lead Sonoma Developmental Center and continue implementation of necessary reforms at the facility,&rdquo; said California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana S. Dooley.</p><p>But some are already expressing concern about the appointment. Former employees of the Sonoma center say that Faria was&nbsp;part of the administrative old guard that knew of patient abuse and tried to suppress investigations into wrongdoing at the center. One former doctor at the facility was particularly critical of the appointment.</p><p>&quot;Her appointment is an amazing bit of duplicity,&rdquo; said Dr. Van Peña, a physician at the Sonoma Developmental Center from 1990 to 2000. &ldquo;She is totally party line, so I don&rsquo;t know how she&rsquo;s going to right the ship.&rdquo;</p><p>Faria could not be reached for comment today.</p><p>Faria began at the Sonoma center as a recreation therapist in 1985 and rose through the ranks as the clients&rsquo; rights advocate, quality assurance program director and clinical director from 2000 to 2005.</p><p>Peña said Faria&rsquo;s success at the center came from keeping her head down and not questioning authority, even when patient safety was on the line.</p><p>&ldquo;She is not an independent thinker,&rdquo; Peña said. &ldquo;If someone above her told her to do this or that, she would do it. That&rsquo;s why that place had such abysmal care &ndash; because those instructions didn&rsquo;t help patients, they helped people keep their jobs.&rdquo;</p><p>Peña is suing the Department of Developmental Services, alleging officials at the Sonoma center fired him for reporting suspicious injuries to outside regulators and to law enforcement. The state denies the claim and has fought the doctor&#39;s lawsuit for a decade. It is scheduled to go to trial in federal court later this year.</p><p>Nancy Lungren, a spokeswoman for the Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the state&#39;s five developmental centers, said Faria&#39;s background was carefully reviewed before the selection was made.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;These background checks indicated Ms. Faria would be a strong leader committed to client protection,&quot; Lungren said.</p><p>The Sonoma center is appealing the loss of its license with state public health officials. In January, the Department of Developmental Services agreed to forfeit more than $1 million a month in federal funding for failing to protect severely disabled patients from abuse at some of the center&rsquo;s housing units. The federal funds cover as much as half of the treatment costs for patients who qualify for the federal program.</p><p>The state has taken what it calls &ldquo;aggressive actions&rdquo; to correct problems at Sonoma, including having the California Highway Patrol oversee the law enforcement, establishing an independent on-site monitor and enhancing staff training. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;With her extensive experience, Ms. Faria will be able to provide the strong leadership needed to improve services and ensure that residents are living in a healthy and safe environment,&rdquo; said Terri Delgadillo, the department&#39;s director.</p><p>Faria assumes her new position April 1 with an annual salary of $108,564, according to the Department of Developmental Services.</p><p>But Peña doubted Faria could now protect patients.</p><p>&ldquo;Unless she was locked in a closet with bricks all those years, the physicians and nurses would have seen incident reports of patient neglect and abuse,&rdquo; said Peña. &ldquo;She would have known about the incident reports.&rdquo;</p> Health and Welfare Public Safety Daily Report Department of Developmental Services developmentally disabled patient abuse Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Fri, 08 Mar 2013 01:38:16 +0000 Amy Julia Harris 18827 at http://californiawatch.org Mike Kepka/San Francisco Chronicle Giant palm trees stand at the main gate of the Sonoma Developmental Center, which houses about 500 patients.  CIR’s California Watch wins Polk award for second straight year http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/cir-s-california-watch-wins-polk-award-second-straight-year-18812 <p>We are proud to write today that the <a href="http://www.cironline.org" target="_blank">Center for Investigative Reporting</a>&rsquo;s California Watch has won the George Polk Award for our series exposing flaws in the way a special state police force handles crimes against the developmentally disabled.</p><p>It is the second consecutive year that California Watch has won the <a href="http://www.liu.edu/polk" target="_blank">prestigious George Polk Award</a>. This year, we are being honored in the category of state reporting for Ryan Gabrielson&rsquo;s extraordinary series &ldquo;<a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">Broken Shield</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>The series has prompted far-reaching change, including a criminal investigation, staff retraining and new laws &ndash; all intended to bring greater safeguards and accountability.</p><p>Gabrielson was one of 14 Polk award winners announced today by Long Island University, which administers the prizes. University officials said more than 700 stories were submitted to the judges. Other winners include The New York Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bloomberg News, CBS News, The Washington Post and Mother Jones.</p><p>The Polk award is named after a CBS newsman murdered while covering the Greek Civil War in 1948.</p><p>Gabrielson&rsquo;s 18-month investigation about the Office of Protective Services snowballed over the course of 2012 &ndash; resulting in five major installments from February to November. The police force was set up specifically to protect the developmentally disabled living in the state&rsquo;s five remaining board-and-care centers. But Gabrielson found that the department&rsquo;s officers and detectives often failed to secure crime scenes and routinely delayed interviews with key witnesses and suspects &ndash; leading to an alarming inability to solve crimes.</p><p>Gabrielson detailed that <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">dozens of women were sexually assaulted</a> inside state centers, but police investigators didn&rsquo;t order&nbsp;&ldquo;rape kits&rdquo;&nbsp;to collect evidence, a standard law enforcement tool. Police waited so long to investigate one sexual assault that the staff janitor accused of rape fled the country. The police force&rsquo;s inaction also allowed abusive caregivers to continue molesting patients &ndash; even after the department had evidence that could have stopped future assaults.</p><p>In one egregious physical abuse case, a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/questions-surround-handling-taser-assaults-disabled-patients-17345" target="_blank">caregiver was suspected of using a Taser</a> to inflict burns on a dozen patients. Yet the internal police force waited at least nine days to interview the caregiver, who was never arrested or charged with abuse. The vast majority of the Taser victims are so disabled they cannot utter a word.</p><p>Gabrielson gave them a resounding voice.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the type of reporting that ends up actually saving lives,&rdquo; wrote Patricia L. McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, in thanking Gabrielson and California Watch.</p><p>The winners of the Polk award will be honored at a luncheon in New York in April.</p><p>Gabrielson was the reporter for the series. Several staffers in the newsroom contributed to the project &ndash; most notably Agustin Armendariz, who provided data analysis; Carrie Ching, who produced two <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/video-jennifers-room-18695" target="_blank">videos</a> for the series; Monica Lam, who produced a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/unexplained-deaths-behind-closed-doors-14987" target="_blank">broadcast video</a> distributed to TV partners; and Robert Salladay, who edited the project.</p><p>Last year, California Watch won a George Polk Award for uncovering a pattern inside a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/prime" target="_blank">fast-growing hospital chain</a> that had repeatedly billed Medicare for rare ailments that generate lucrative bonus payments to the chain.</p> Public Safety Newsroom Department of Developmental Services developmentally disabled Office of Protective Services patient abuse Broken Shield Mon, 18 Feb 2013 08:05:02 +0000 Mark Katches 18812 at http://californiawatch.org What’s your ideal future for the Sonoma Developmental Center? http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/what-s-your-ideal-future-sonoma-developmental-center-18803 <p>At a Jan. 30 <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/sonoma-disability-center-staff-weighs-abuse-claims-18799">community forum</a> on the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, a few themes consistently surfaced in the conversation with residents, families and workers at the board-and-care facility for the developmentally disabled. The Sonoma center has come under fire after an <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683">investigation</a> by California Watch revealed abuse of patients and inept investigations by the Office of Protective Services, the state-run police force that operates at the center.</p><p>Our staff gathered more than 50 questions and many pages of notes from the event, which was sponsored by California Watch and the Sonoma Index-Tribune, and we wanted to share them here in an effort to keep the conversation going.</p><p>One of the issues addressed most frequently was how taxpayer money is spent within the Sonoma center and the state Department of Developmental Services at large. Some of the key questions asked by attendees: Is the money being spent properly? Are patients getting enough care? Are staffing levels adequate? One participant had this to offer:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The SDC property is overkill for a population of 500 patients. Instead of waiting years (for the relocation of existing patients) why can&#39;t they relocate to a smaller, more modern and efficient facility?&quot;</p></blockquote><p>The idea of consolidating California&rsquo;s developmental centers was popular among attendees. One participant suggested opening the center to an older population, which could potentially solve two issues at once &ndash; the care of the state&#39;s severely disabled and the elderly.</p><blockquote><p>&quot;SDC needs to open up to seniors instead of overfilling rest homes. The elderly would receive much better care.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Concerns about the administrative structure of the center were voiced as well. Attendees cited low transparency with the center&rsquo;s data gathering and decision-making, making it difficult to hold officials accountable. A significant concern of Sonoma center staff members and families of patients was the lack of a &ldquo;Plan B&rdquo; &ndash; what happens if (or when) the Sonoma Developmental Center closes:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;We need to change the internal structure of how to do business &shy;&shy;&ndash; we need a Plan B. SDC operates as a place for those who don&#39;t make it in the community. If that&#39;s not there, where do people go if court-ordered?&quot;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>&quot;I work with clients with severe aggression, property destruction, etc. Several have been in jail before. Where will they go without (developmental centers)?&quot;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>&quot;Does the issue of OPS investigations (or lack) create a reason to close SDC? Are these two conversations related?&quot;</p></blockquote><p>With all those points in mind, now&#39;s your chance to weigh in. What&rsquo;s your ideal future for the Sonoma Developmental Center? What can be done to achieve that future, and what are the potential roadblocks? Share your thoughts in the comments or feel free to send me an email at mmcintosh@baycitizen.org.</p> Health and Welfare Newsroom patient abuse patient care Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Wed, 06 Feb 2013 14:05:03 +0000 Marie McIntosh 18803 at http://californiawatch.org Sonoma disability center staff weighs in on abuse claims http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/sonoma-disability-center-staff-weighs-abuse-claims-18799 <p>SONOMA &ndash; California&rsquo;s largest full-time care center for the severely disabled needs more staff and accountability to correct major internal breakdowns that led to dozens of cases of alleged patient abuse, staff members said Wednesday at a public forum.</p><p>The Sonoma Developmental Center, one of five state-run board-and-care facilities, has been in crisis mode since last month, when the center <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/state-threatens-shut-down-disability-center-amid-patient-abuse-18747" target="_blank">lost its primary license</a> to operate for repeatedly exposing patients to physical and sexual abuse and shoddy medical care.</p><p>Katrise Fraund, a longtime senior psychiatric technician at the Sonoma Developmental Center, said the scandal has clouded the typically high quality of care offered at the institution, whose patients have cerebral palsy, severe autism and other intellectual disabilities.</p><p>&ldquo;Abuse of the disabled has happened all along at group homes and state facilities,&rdquo; Fraund said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s just less oversight in group homes than there is at Sonoma. The reality is you do what you can to fix it. You have to keep oversight and then focus on the things that work.&rdquo;</p><p>Records reviewed by California Watch showed patients, parents and staff members at the Sonoma center had reported a dozen sexual assaults in the past four years. But the center&rsquo;s internal police department, the Office of Protective Services, <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">failed to order</a> a single hospital-supervised rape examination for any of these alleged victims.</p><p>Regaining the trust of the community and repairing the image of the Sonoma center will take time, Fraund said. The center now houses more than 500 patients, about 300 of whom are living in &ldquo;intermediate care&rdquo; units that are covered under the current closure order from the state.</p><p>&ldquo;If I tell someone I work at the Sonoma center, they&rsquo;ll say, &lsquo;Isn&rsquo;t that the place where you rape clients?&rsquo; &rdquo; Fraund said. &ldquo;So at this point, I tell people I&rsquo;m a secretary.&rdquo;</p><p>Fraund was one of more than 140 people who attended a packed public forum Wednesday hosted by California Watch and the Sonoma Index-Tribune to discuss the future of the Sonoma center. Officials with the state Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the center, were invited to attend the free event, but declined.</p><p>The Sonoma center is appealing the loss of its license with state public health officials. Earlier this month, the Department of Developmental Services <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/state-disability-center-forfeits-funding-over-abuse-18789" target="_blank">agreed to forfeit</a> more than $1 million a month in federal funding for failing to protect severely disabled patients from abuse at some of the center&rsquo;s housing units. The federal funds cover as much as half of the treatment costs for patients who qualify for the federal program.</p><p>Daniel Solnit, a union representative for workers at the Sonoma Developmental Center, warned that closing the facility would devastate the local economy, put thousands of people out of work and shunt hundreds of vulnerable patients to lesser-quality group homes.</p><p>&ldquo;The center is the biggest employer in Sonoma County,&rdquo; Solnit said. &ldquo;Closing this place would put the entire county into a serious economic recession.&rdquo;</p><p>The Sonoma center employs more than 1,000 people in the region. Solnit said it provides specialized services for developmentally disabled people like teaching programs that are not available at comparable for-profit group homes.</p><p>&ldquo;The patients aren&rsquo;t just sitting in front of a TV all day,&rdquo; Solnit said. &ldquo;Yes, there were some bad apples at Sonoma. But for every abusive person, there were many people who devoted their lives to their patients with care these patients couldn&rsquo;t get anywhere else.&rdquo;</p><p>Patrick Leslie, a chaplain at the Sonoma Developmental Center for 20 years, called the center a &ldquo;wonderful place&rdquo; that needed to be built up rather than torn down in the wake of abuses uncovered at the institution. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If my sister was living (in the U.S.), I would want her to be at Sonoma,&rdquo; said Leslie, whose sister has Down syndrome. &ldquo;I trust and respect how professional and caring they are. Going forward, we need to break down the red tape and move past negative publicity.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Circe Bisby, a senior psychiatric technician who has been at the Sonoma center for 23 years, said the problems at the center stem from a lack of staffing and inefficient administrative rules that encourage workers to clock long hours to net overtime pay.&nbsp;</p><p>Bisby said accidents happen when the center is chronically understaffed and people are expected to work far longer than eight-hour shifts. Bisby said her responsibility at work has grown considerably: She administers drugs to patients, supervises caregivers on her shift, conducts in-room care with patients and fills out administrative paperwork during a normal shift.</p><p>&ldquo;Workers are just numbers to these people (administrators),&rdquo; Bisby said. &ldquo;The internal culture needs to change.&rdquo;</p> Health and Welfare Daily Report Department of Developmental Services developmental center Developmental centers patient abuse Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Thu, 31 Jan 2013 19:09:28 +0000 Amy Julia Harris 18799 at http://californiawatch.org Anna Vignet/California Watch Patrick Leslie, a chaplain at the Sonoma Developmental Center, speaks about the facility's need for good publicity at a public forum.  Public forum: What’s the future of Sonoma’s developmental center? http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/public-forum-what-s-future-sonoma-s-developmental-center-18790 <p>California Watch is inviting the public to share its thoughts, insights and experiences about the troubled Sonoma Developmental Center, the state&rsquo;s largest board-and-care facility for the severely disabled.</p><p>Few people in California are more vulnerable than the patients at the Sonoma center. The people who live there suffer from cerebral palsy, severe autism, and other&nbsp;mental, intellectual&nbsp;and physical disabilities. Many have no family to take care of them.</p><p>For more than a year, California Watch reporter Ryan Gabrielson has been investigating the Sonoma facility. The stories have revealed widespread problems with the center&rsquo;s treatment of patients by staff members and a little-known state police force charged with investigating crimes at the facility. Patients at one unit in Sonoma suffered clear evidence of sexual assault, but their cases were never properly investigated.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/state-disability-center-forfeits-funding-over-abuse-18789" target="_blank">Now</a>, the Sonoma facility is facing severe sanctions and possible closure of its largest housing units. The center employs&nbsp;more than 1,000 people from the region.</p><p>What does this&nbsp;new&nbsp;development&nbsp;mean for the city of Sonoma, the developmental&nbsp;center and its patients,&nbsp;and the people who live&nbsp;in surrounding&nbsp;communities?</p><p>We invite you to a forum that will feature a panel discussion with community members and experts. The panel will be moderated by Phil Bronstein, the executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting, the parent organization of California Watch. Gabrielson will also outline his stories and answer questions.</p><p>Please come and share your thoughts, insights, experiences and questions with the community. Learn more about the entire investigation <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">here</a>, and read about <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">what happened in Sonoma</a> on our website.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Details</strong></p><p><a href="http://calwatchsonoma.eventbrite.com/#" target="_blank">RSVP on Eventbrite</a></p><p>When: Jan. 30</p><p>Time: 6-8 p.m.</p><p>Where: Ramekins:&nbsp;450 W. Spain St.,&nbsp;Sonoma</p><p>*This event is free, but space is limited and registration is&nbsp;required.&nbsp;It&nbsp;is part of California Watch&#39;s&nbsp;<a _mce_href="http://californiawatch.org/futurestate" href="http://californiawatch.org/futurestate" target="_blank">Future State</a>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;a series of public events&nbsp;that aims&nbsp;to drive solutions-oriented dialogue based on fact and data on issues facing&nbsp;California&#39;s&nbsp;future.</p> Public Safety Newsroom Broken Shield Tue, 22 Jan 2013 14:05:03 +0000 Marie McIntosh 18790 at http://californiawatch.org State disability center forfeits funding over abuse http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/state-disability-center-forfeits-funding-over-abuse-18789 <p>California&#39;s largest board-and-care center for the developmentally disabled will surrender more than $1 million a month in federal funding for failures to protect patients from abuse and provide quality medical care, state officials announced today.</p><p>In December, state regulators cited the Sonoma Developmental Center <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/538078-sdc-termination-letter-121212.html" target="_blank">for numerous violations</a> that put patients with cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities at risk of serious injury and death. Regulators have threatened to close a major portion of the century-old institution, now home to more than 500 patients.</p><p>The state Department of Developmental Services, which operates the institution, <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/558534-dds-sdc-press-rls-final-1-18-13.html" target="_blank">this week agreed</a> not to seek reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare &amp; Medicaid for services provided at its most troubled residences. The state singled out four out of 10 residential units at the Sonoma facility.</p><p>&ldquo;While there are deficiencies in the management, training, and staffing in the Sonoma (intermediate care) units generally, the problems are more significant in Corcoran, Lathrop, Bemis and Smith,&rdquo; Terri Delgadillo, director of the state&rsquo;s developmental services department, wrote to the federal agency Thursday.</p><p>The department &ldquo;is committed to fixing the problems in all of the units, but addressing the problems in these four units will take additional time,&quot; she said.</p><p>Roughly half of the center&rsquo;s revenue comes from federal reimbursement. The loss of certification in Sonoma means California taxpayers will lose millions of dollars in federal funding that is dependent on assurances the facility is properly managed.&nbsp;</p><p>The action comes after a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">series of stories</a> this year from California Watch documenting failures by the Office of Protective Services, an internal police force established specifically to protect and serve patients at these board-and-care centers. The police force has failed to perform basic tasks associated with crime investigations.</p><p>In particular, the Sonoma center had evidence of a <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">dozen sexual assaults</a>, but police investigators failed to order a single hospital-supervised examination for the alleged victims. Those reported assaults, all from the Corcoran unit, represent a third of the 36 documented cases of sexual abuse and molestation in the past four years at the state&rsquo;s five developmental centers.</p><p>In <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/558533-cdph-statement-on-sonoma-developmental-center.html" target="_blank">a press release</a>, the state Department of Public Health said it &quot;will closely monitor each residential unit to ensure that all clients are protected from harm and the delivery of healthcare to this vulnerable population complies with both federal and state requirements.&quot;</p><p>The state Department of Public Health regulates California&rsquo;s five developmental centers, which house 1,600 patients in Sonoma, Tulare, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.</p><p>Sonoma has gone through two executive directors the past year; it is now looking for a permanent replacement. State officials have contracted with outside experts to upgrade care at the institution.</p><p>&ldquo;The well-being of our residents at Sonoma Developmental Center is a top priority and the department has made critical improvements in the (intermediate care facility), but significant work still needs to be done,&rdquo; Delgadillo said in a written statement today.</p> Health and Welfare Public Safety Daily Report Office of Protective Services patient abuse Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Sat, 19 Jan 2013 01:17:12 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18789 at http://californiawatch.org Mike Kepka/San Francisco Chronicle A placard marks the Corcoran Unit at the Sonoma Developmental Center, which has been the site of 11 alleged sex assaults since 2009. State threatens to shut down disability center amid patient abuse http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/state-threatens-shut-down-disability-center-amid-patient-abuse-18747 <p>The state&#39;s largest board-and-care center for the severely disabled lost its primary license to operate today, after repeatedly exposing patients to abuse and shoddy medical care.</p><p>State regulators cited the Sonoma Developmental Center, which houses more than 500 patients, for <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/538078-sdc-termination-letter-121212.html" target="_blank">dozens of cases</a> where patients were put at risk of injury or death. In issuing the citations, the state moved to shut down a major portion of the century-old institution.</p><p>The action comes after <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">a series of stories</a> this year from California Watch documenting failures by the Office of Protective Services,&nbsp;an internal police force established specifically to protect and serve patients at these board-and-care centers. The police force has failed to <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">perform&nbsp;basic tasks</a> associated with crime investigations. In particular, the Sonoma center had evidence of a dozen sexual assaults but&nbsp;police investigators&nbsp;failed to order a single hospital-supervised examination for the alleged victims. Those reported assaults represent a third of the 36 documented cases of sexual abuse and molestation in the past four years at the state&rsquo;s five developmental centers.</p><p>The loss of state certification in Sonoma means California taxpayers will lose tens of millions of dollars in federal funding that is dependent on assurances the facility is properly managed. Critically, it raises questions about how to care for hundreds of patients with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and severe autism if the center closes. Most of the patients at the Sonoma center are unable to live with their families or in group homes.</p><p>The state Department of Developmental Services is appealing the revocation, which was announced by state health officials who have regulatory control over the facility. The facility will remain operating during the appeal.</p><p>The state Department of Public Health moved to sanction the Sonoma center after it visited the facility in late November and early December and &quot;documented incidents of abuse constituting immediate jeopardy, as well as actual serious threats to the physical safety of female clients in certain units.&quot;</p><p>Terri Delgadillo, director of the developmental services department, which has a budget of $4.5 billion, said state officials are acting to make changes.</p><p>&ldquo;We are contacting our residents&rsquo; families to assure them of our continued commitment to making improvements,&rdquo; Delgadillo said in <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/538067-dds-sdc-press-rls-final-12-12-12.html" target="_blank">a written statement</a>. &ldquo;We are moving quickly to fix this center and protect our residents.&rdquo;</p><p>The department announced it was putting Frank Parrish, assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol, temporarily in charge of the&nbsp;Office of Protective Services&rsquo; unit&nbsp;at the Sonoma center. The highway patrol &ldquo;is in the process of evaluating the issues to ensure the delivery of appropriate services,&quot; the department said in a release.</p><p>The move does not affect the detectives and patrol officers operating at the state&rsquo;s other four developmental centers.</p><div>For some critics of the Office of Protective Services, installing new leadership with a strong law enforcement background is a welcome change. For decades, state officials have hired police chiefs with little or no experience investigating crimes.</div><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a whole lot easier for someone who already knows how to do law enforcement, who knows how to be a good investigator, to learn the idiosyncrasies of working with that client base,&rdquo; said Thomas Simms, a retired police chief and former California Department of Justice consultant who audited the Office of Protective Services in 2002. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t take the in-house people ... and make them good investigators.&rdquo;</p><p>The state has already moved to make changes at the developmental centers, including hiring an outside monitor to help oversee retraining of officers. The Legislature ordered a thorough audit of the facilities, and Gov. Jerry Brown has signed two laws to strengthen oversight of the facilities. One requires the centers report alleged sex assaults against patients to outside law enforcement. The other requires that the Office of Protective Services chief have &quot;extensive management experience directing uniformed peace officer and investigation operations,&quot; the law states.</p><p>The state is targeting the facility&#39;s apparent inability to properly care for about 300 patients who aren&#39;t bedridden &ndash; the so-called intermediate care patients. An additional 200 patients under skilled nursing supervision were not affected by the sanctions issued today.</p><p>For the Sonoma center, the penalty would cut off reimbursements that cover about half of its $160 million annual budget. Finance records show that the Medi-Cal program pays more than $6 million a month for patient care at the Sonoma center.</p><p>The 90-member Office of Protective Services force was created decades ago to patrol California&#39;s five developmental centers, which are in Los Angeles, Tulare, Riverside, Orange and Sonoma counties. The facilities house about 1,600 patients, many of them so severely disabled they cannot speak.</p><p>In a report issued in August, state regulators repeatedly faulted the Office of Protective Services for inadequate investigations in alleged crimes against patients.</p><p>Since 2009, patients at developmental centers have accused their caregivers of sexual abuse 36 times. Documents show that patients suffered molestation, forced oral sex and vaginal lacerations, but the Office of Protective Services moved so slowly and ineffectively that predators stayed ahead of law enforcement or abused new victims.</p><p>Many the complaints of sexual abuse at the facilities have occurred at Sonoma. Twelve of the 36 abuse cases since 2009 &ndash; all identified by patients rights advocates as needing thorough investigation &ndash; occurred at Sonoma. In every case, the Office of Protective Services failed to order a sexual assault examination known as a rape kit, often the only way to gather physical evidence in sexual assault cases.</p><p>Statewide, the Office of Protective Services referred just three sex crime cases to county district attorneys for prosecution since 2009, said Leslie Morrison with Disability Rights California. In those cases, officers did not collect any physical evidence to determine whether crimes occurred. Just one of those cases led to an arrest.</p><p>Records show the Office of Investigative Services has failed to thoroughly investigate sexual assault cases at Sonoma for years. One of the most disturbing assaults involved a former patient named Jennifer who suffered from bipolar disorder and severe mental retardation.</p><p>In 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma center found bruises shaped like handprints covering Jennifer&#39;s breasts, suggesting an assault. She accused a staff member of molestation, but the Office of Protective Services opened an investigation without ordering a rape kit examination.</p><p>A few months later, Jennifer was pregnant. By then, her alleged attacker had fled the country.</p><p>In another case from early 2000, a female patient at the Sonoma center accused a male caregiver of sexually assaulting her during a bath. The institution then assigned two men to bathe the patient, even though the facility employed many female caregivers. Both caregivers allegedly raped her during bathing. Police made no arrests in the case. &nbsp;</p> Public Safety Daily Report Developmental centers Office of Protective Services Sonoma Developmental Center Broken Shield Thu, 13 Dec 2012 03:12:18 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18747 at http://californiawatch.org Mike Kepka/San Francisco Chronicle The Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge is one of five state-run institutions for the developmentally disabled.  Calls grow for local police to take cases at developmental centers http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/calls-grow-local-police-take-cases-developmental-centers-18724 <p>Sonoma County&rsquo;s top prosecutor has joined with advocates for the developmentally disabled in calling for local police to take charge of criminal investigations of patient abuse at California&rsquo;s board-and-care institutions.</p><p>Cases involving reported assault and negligence have long been left to the Office of Protective Services, the police force at the five state-run developmental centers. The force&#39;s detectives and patrol officers have routinely failed to do basic police work even when patients die under suspicious circumstances.</p><p>The force has performed especially poorly in sexual abuse cases, <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">California Watch reported</a> in a story published Thursday.</p><p>Patients have accused caretakers of molestation and rape 36 times since 2009, but the Office of Protective Services did not order a single hospital-supervised rape examination for any of the alleged victims. &ldquo;Rape kit&rdquo; exams are&nbsp;routinely used to collect evidence at most police departments.</p><p>Eleven of the sex abuse cases were reported at the Sonoma Developmental Center, all from female patients living in the Corcoran Unit.</p><p>&ldquo;The local law enforcement agencies have better tools than (the Office of Protective Services) does to handle those kinds of investigations,&rdquo; Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County district attorney, said in an interview Friday. She has recommended that the county sheriff&rsquo;s office take over responsibility for potential abuse cases, including sex assaults.</p><p>The centers house roughly 1,600 patients with cerebral palsy, severe autism and intellectual disabilities in Sonoma, Los Angeles, Riverside, Tulare and Orange counties. The state spends more than $300,000 a year to care for each patient.</p><p>The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California, an advocacy group for the developmentally disabled, has argued for months that city and county police agencies should investigate patient abuse allegations at the institutions. Greg deGiere, public policy director for the group, said the Office of Protective Services mishandled sex assault investigations, making outside police involvement urgent.</p><p>&ldquo;This problem is out of control and warrants a much stronger response,&rdquo; deGiere said.</p><p>State officials have documented hundreds of <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/sloppy-investigations-leave-abuse-disabled-unsolved-14971" target="_blank">cases of abuse</a> and unexplained injuries, almost none of which have led to arrests, California Watch has reported in <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">a series of stories</a> this year. The Office of Protective Services has failed to <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/basic-police-work-ignored-autistic-patient-s-suspicious-death-14972" target="_blank">collect physical evidence</a> in numerous potential violent crime cases.</p><p>And in the three dozen cases of sexual abuse, internal records reveal that patients suffered molestation, forced oral sex and vaginal lacerations. But for years, the state-run police force has moved so slowly and ineffectively that predators have stayed a step ahead of law enforcement or abused new victims, records show.</p><p>In response to reporting by California Watch, state lawmakers in August&nbsp;ordered the California State Auditor to examine the force&rsquo;s handling of criminal investigations and overtime spending. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two laws that require the centers to notify outside law enforcement and Disability Rights California, a protection organization, of alleged patient abuse and certain serious injuries.</p><p>The state Department of Developmental Services operates the centers and the police force. Terri Delgadillo, the agency&rsquo;s director, said Friday in a written statement that the measures improve patients&rsquo; safety.</p><p>&ldquo;The department welcomed the passage and signing of <a href="http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1051-1100/sb_1051_bill_20120927_chaptered.html" target="_blank">SB 1051</a> and <a href="http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1501-1550/sb_1522_bill_20120927_chaptered.html" target="_blank">SB 1522</a>, that will further ensure developmental center investigators and outside law enforcement agencies work more collaboratively to investigate unexplained injuries or allegations of abuse,&quot; Delgadillo wrote.</p><p>It is unclear how prepared, or willing, local city police and sheriff&rsquo;s departments are to shoulder the additional caseload from the centers. Local law enforcement agencies&nbsp;across the state have long deferred allegations of abuse at the centers to the Office of Protective Services.</p><p>Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas could not be reached for comment on Friday.</p><p>Going forward, deGiere said the onus should be on outside police agencies to head up investigations of crimes against developmental center patients.</p><p>&ldquo;If they don&rsquo;t get involved, it&rsquo;s because they choose not to get involved,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;not because they can&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> Public Safety Daily Report Department of Developmental Services Jerry Brown Office of Protective Services sexual assault Broken Shield Mon, 03 Dec 2012 08:05:03 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18724 at http://californiawatch.org Mike Kepka/San Francisco Chronicle The Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge is one of five state-run institutions for the developmentally disabled. 'In Jennifer's Room' tells chilling story of abuse while protecting family's privacy http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/jennifers-room-tells-chilling-story-abuse-while-protecting-familys-privacy-18723 <p><em>&ldquo;I feel bad for the people who have no one to fight for them. There are a lot of them; they don&#39;t have any family. I told them when we were (there), &#39;You know, I was a hands-on mom, and I fought you for my daughter&#39;s security, and I still wasn&#39;t able to protect her.&#39;&rdquo;</em></p><p>These are the words of the mother of Jennifer, an intellectually disabled patient at the Sonoma Developmental Center. In 2006, Jennifer accused a caretaker of physical and sexual abuse. Little was done, and her case was shelved.</p><p>Less than a year later, Jennifer&rsquo;s family discovered that she was pregnant. Records show that the staff at the Sonoma center ignored or overlooked her condition, even after she visited a gynecologist at the facility while several months pregnant.</p><p>How could this have happened? Patients like Jennifer, who live at one of California&#39;s five board-and-care facilities for the disabled, have accused caretakers and other employees of rape and molestation 36 times since 2009. In that time, investigations have yielded just one arrest.</p><p>Reporter Ryan Gabrielson&#39;s <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683" target="_blank">latest investigation</a> revealed that the Office of Protective Services, the police force in charge of protecting this vulnerable population of 1,600 patients statewide, failed to order a single nurse-supervised rape examination for any of the alleged victims since 2009.</p><p>Telling these kinds of stories is critical for raising awareness. But care must be taken to protect the victims, who have largely remained anonymous in this investigation to protect their privacy. This creates a unique challenge &ndash; how do we protect the identities of the victims and their families while ensuring that their words and experiences create maximum impact? The need to respect the family&#39;s privacy competes with the need to spread the information far and wide.</p><p>Our solution? This graphic novel-style&nbsp;<a href="http://californiawatch.org/node/18695" target="_blank">video</a>, directed and produced by senior multimedia producer Carrie Ching. The illustrations mask the identity of the family, and a CIR staff member served as a voice actor for Jennifer&#39;s mother. The result is a chilling portrait of life in the Sonoma Developmental Center for one young woman and the struggles she and her family faced when confronted with the nightmare of rape.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="380" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/UCoE-DD42c8" width="640"></iframe></p> Public Safety Newsroom Broken Shield Fri, 30 Nov 2012 20:36:53 +0000 Marie McIntosh 18723 at http://californiawatch.org Explainer: Investigating sexual abuse in California’s developmental centers http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/explainer-investigating-sexual-abuse-california-s-developmental-centers-18699 <p>Patients at California&#39;s five board-and-care centers for the developmentally disabled have accused caretakers and other employees of rape and molestation 36 times during the past four years.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services, the agency in charge of protecting this vulnerable population of 1,600 patients statewide, failed to order a single outside rape examinationfor any of the alleged victims, most of whom are female. These patients suffer from cerebral palsy, severe autism and other intellectual disabilities.</p><p>Under other circumstances, performing a rape examination is a routine part of a police investigation. Performed by specially trained nurses to find all manner of physical evidence, it is an important part of investigating sexual abuse allegations, identifying a suspect and solving sex crimes.</p><p>But this is often not the case at California&rsquo;s developmental centers. Former detectives and patrol officers at three of the five centers say the Office of Protective Services blocked or ignored investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.</p><p>In 2006, Jennifer, a patient at the Sonoma Developmental Center with severe intellectual disabilities, was found to have severe bruises across her chest, which she attributed to a caregiver at the centerwho abused her. Her mother was told by a social worker that the Office of Protective Services had thoroughly investigated Jennifer&rsquo;s allegation but could not prove it.</p><p>Less than a year later, during a weekend visit to her family&#39;s home, Jennifer&#39;s family discovered she was pregnant. Records show that hospital staff either ignored or overlooked her condition.</p><p><strong>Catch-22 in evidence collection </strong></p><p>Four years ago, the Office of Protective Services implemented its first policy regarding the investigation of potential sex crimes. However, these guidelines often present a barrier to investigating sexual assaults, rather than helping. For example, the following requirements must be met for a &ldquo;rape kit&rdquo; examination to be ordered:</p><p style="margin-left:35.3pt;">&ldquo;A sexual assault occurred within the preceding 72 hours <em><u>and</u> </em>there is potential for recovery of physical evidence of the recent sexual assault.&rdquo;(Emphasis from original policy)</p><p>Experts on sexual assault investigations told California Watch that the phrase &ldquo;potential for recovery&rdquo; is problematic because detectives cannot tell what evidence exists before a patient is examined. It leaves them in a Catch-22:How do you know what evidence there is to collect if you are unable to collect it? Additionally, Roberta Hopewell, a detective at the Riverside Police Department, says the 72-hour time limit is outdated, as physical evidence sometimes can be recovered up to two weeks after an assault.</p><p><strong>So what&rsquo;s being done?</strong></p><p>In September, Gov.Jerry Brown signed SB1522, which requires that developmental centers report alleged sexual assaults against patients to outside law enforcement. According to a statement, the law &ldquo;will ensure developmental center investigators and outside law enforcement agencies work collaboratively to investigate unexplained injuries or allegations of abuse.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>How to get involved</strong></p><p>The support network for the disabled is a wide one. These groups offer resources to find out more, as well as information on how to get involved. If you want to share your stories about developmental centers, <a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/center-for-investigative-reporting/f956d99acf37/do-you-suspect-abuse-at-a-developmental-center" target="_blank">we&rsquo;d love to hear from you</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.disabilityrights-cdr.org/">Californians for Disability Rights</a> &ndash; California&#39;s oldest and largest organization of people with disabilities.<br /> From the group&rsquo;s website: <em>CDR and its members fight for the independence, dignity and equality of all disabled persons.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.dralegal.org/">Disability Rights Advocates</a> &ndash; A nonprofit legal center dedicated to securing the civil rights of people with disabilities. All work is done pro bono.<br /> From the group&rsquo;s website: <em>DRA advocates for disability rights through high-impact litigation, as well as research and education. </em></p><p><a href="http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/">Disability Rights California</a> &ndash; Provides free legal and advocacy services to low-income Californians with disabilities. All work is done pro bono.</p><p>From the group&rsquo;s website: <em>Advocate, educate, investigate and litigate to advance and protect the rights of Californians with disabilities.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.dredf.org/">Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund</a> &ndash; A national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.<br /> From the group&rsquo;s website: <em>The mission of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.ndrn.org/">National Disability Rights Network</a> &ndash; Protection and advocacy for people with disabilities.</p><p>From the group&rsquo;s website: <em>Through training and technical assistance, legal support and legislative advocacy, NDRN works to create a society in which </em>people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination.</p><p>If you suspect abuse at one of California&#39;s developmental centers, please share your story with California Watch via the Public Insight Network. All information is confidential and could help inform our reporting on this topic.</p><p>Get more updates from our Broken Shield investigation as we publish them. Text &ldquo;OPS&rdquo; to 877877 and visit <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">californiawatch.org/brokenshield</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>See what we found in our ongoing Broken Shield investigation. <a href="http://californiawatch.org/files/BrokenShield-ResourceGuide.pdf" target="_blank">Download our series explainer to learn more.</a></p> Public Safety developmental center developmentally disabled infographic patient abuse police sexual assault Broken Shield Thu, 29 Nov 2012 08:05:03 +0000 Marie McIntosh 18699 at http://californiawatch.org Video: In Jennifer's Room http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/video-jennifers-room-18695 <p>In August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma Developmental Center found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient named Jennifer. She accused a staff member of molestation, court records show. Jennifer&rsquo;s injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse, indicating that someone had violently grabbed her.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services <a href="http://californiawatch.org/node/18683" target="_blank">opened an investigation</a>. But detectives took no action because the case relied heavily on the word of a woman with severe intellectual disabilities. A few months later, court records show, officials at the center had indisputable evidence that a crime had occurred.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="380" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/UCoE-DD42c8" width="640"></iframe></p><p>Credits:</p><div>Reported and narrated by Ryan Gabrielson</div><div>Directed, produced, and edited by Carrie Ching</div><div>Illustrated by Marina Luz</div><div>Transcript of mother&#39;s interview read by Evelyn Kelsey</div><div>Music:</div><div>&quot;Haunted&quot; by Jamie Evans</div><div>&quot;Winter Sunshine&quot; by Evgeny Grinko</div><div>&quot;From Truth&quot; and &quot;The Time to Run&quot; by Dexter Britain</div><div>Sound effects by grayseraphim and pfly</div> Public Safety developmental center developmentally disabled patient abuse police sexual assault video Broken Shield Thu, 29 Nov 2012 08:05:03 +0000 Carrie Ching Ryan Gabrielson 18695 at http://californiawatch.org Police ignored, mishandled sex assaults reported by disabled http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/police-ignored-mishandled-sex-assaults-reported-disabled-18683 <p>Patients at California&rsquo;s board-and-care centers for the developmentally disabled have accused caretakers of molestation and rape 36 times during the past four years<a name="molestation"></a>, but police assigned to protect them did not complete even the simplest tasks associated with investigating the alleged crimes, records and interviews show.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services, the police force at California&rsquo;s five developmental centers, failed to order a single hospital-supervised rape examination for any of these alleged victims between 2009 and 2012.<a name="rapekit"></a> At most police departments, using a &ldquo;rape kit&rdquo; to collect evidence would be considered routine.</p><p>The procedure, performed by specially trained nurses, is widely regarded as the best way to find evidence of sexual abuse. Without physical evidence, it can be nearly impossible to solve sex crimes, especially those committed against people with cerebral palsy and profound intellectual disabilities.</p><p>In the three dozen cases of sexual abuse, documents obtained by California Watch reveal that patients suffered molestation, forced oral sex and vaginal lacerations.<a name="abuse"></a> But for years, the state-run police force has moved so slowly and ineffectively that predators have stayed a step ahead of law enforcement or abused new victims, records show.</p><p>State officials responsible for the police force would not comment about specific abuse cases but emphasized that patient protection is the state&rsquo;s top priority. Officials also said they have ordered retraining for officers and added new procedures to better protect patients &ndash; moves that occurred after <a href="http://californiawatch.org/broken-shield" target="_blank">earlier California Watch stories</a>.</p><p>Much of the alleged sexual abuse in the California institutions has occurred at the Sonoma Developmental Center,<a name="sonoma"></a> where female patients have been repeatedly assaulted, internal incident records show. In one case, a caregiver was cleared by the police department of assault and went on to molest a second patient.</p><p>In&nbsp;another case from August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma&nbsp;center found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient named Jennifer. The patient accused a staff member of molestation, <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/368184-sonoma-dc-rape-litigation-dds.html#document/p3/a81958" target="_blank">court records show</a>. Jennifer&rsquo;s injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse, indicating that someone had violently grabbed her.</p><p>The Office of Protective Services opened an investigation. But detectives took no action because the case relied heavily on the word of a woman with severe intellectual disabilities. A few months later, court records show, officials at the center had indisputable evidence that a crime had occurred.</p><p>Jennifer was pregnant.</p><p>By that time, her alleged attacker had vanished.</p><p>For the parents of the 32-year-old patient, the reaction has been disbelief and anger. They are now raising a 5-year-old boy who Jennifer is incapable of mothering. The child is precocious and strongly resembles his maternal grandmother.</p><p>&ldquo;Every time, I just imagine her being raped and screaming and crying for me,&rdquo; said the woman&rsquo;s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect Jennifer&rsquo;s identity. &ldquo;It just kills me.&rdquo;<a name="killsme"></a></p><p>The Office of Protective Services has not collected physical evidence to back up cases such as Jennifer&rsquo;s. In situations involving developmentally disabled patients, DNA and other physical evidence are even more important because statements from alleged victims often are treated as unreliable. Some have IQs in the single digits and cannot speak.</p><p>Detectives at city and county police departments are trained to send sexual assault victims to an outside hospital for the specialized rape examination. But the doctors and nurses at the state&rsquo;s developmental centers &ndash; in Sonoma, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Tulare counties &ndash; were not trained in dealing with sexual assault victims, records and interviews show.<a name="training"></a></p><p>California Watch shared details of the developmental center sex abuse cases with two outside police detectives who specialize in such assault investigations. The detectives said they were dismayed by the state&rsquo;s actions.</p><p>&ldquo;How can you do a sexual assault investigation and not do an exam?&rdquo;<a name="roberta"></a> said Roberta Hopewell, a detective at the Riverside Police Department and president of the California Sexual Assault Investigators Association.</p><p>According to interviews with former detectives and patrol officers at three of the state&rsquo;s developmental centers, the Office of Protective Services did not assign its own detectives to cases that should have been investigated &ndash; nor did the force seek expert help from outside law enforcement.</p><p>One former patrol officer said administrators were afraid of bad publicity.<a name="publicity"></a></p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t want anything to get out, so they handled it internally. They call the shots,&rdquo; said Joe Guardado, a former patrol officer at the Porterville Developmental Center in Tulare County who retired in 2010.&nbsp;</p><p>In September, California Watch presented its findings about the handling of sex abuse against patients to officials at the state Department of Developmental Services, which operates the five centers and oversees the Office of Protective Services, its 90-member police force.</p><p>Terri Delgadillo, the department&rsquo;s director, declined interview requests. Instead, the department issued a <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/454581-statement-for-california-watch-10-4-12.html" target="_blank">written statement</a> saying the state is working to protect patients and ensure they receive justice. That includes hiring &ldquo;nationally recognized law enforcement experts&rdquo; to train police officers and detectives to better handle sex assault cases, the department said.</p><p>&ldquo;In addition, training was provided to ensure that referrals for sexual assault examinations are completed by thoroughly trained personnel, and that investigations are conducted appropriately and timely,&rdquo; the department said.</p><p>Studies of crimes against the developmentally disabled have found that as many as 80 percent of women in this population are sexually assaulted during their lives. Many victims suffer repeated attacks. <a name="percentage"></a></p><p>In a series of stories this year, California Watch has reported that sworn officers at the institutions routinely failed to conduct basic police work in <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/sloppy-investigations-leave-abuse-disabled-unsolved-14971" target="_blank">cases with criminal implications</a>, including <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/questions-surround-handling-taser-assaults-disabled-patients-17345" target="_blank">stun-gun assaults</a> on multiple patients and <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/basic-police-work-ignored-autistic-patient-s-suspicious-death-14972" target="_blank">a suspected homicide</a>.</p><p>The facilities have documented hundreds of cases of abuse and unexplained injuries, almost none of which have led to arrests. Despite its sloppy record, the force managed to <a href="http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/overtime-pay-soars-state-run-police-force-16067" target="_blank">collect more overtime pay</a> than other police agencies its size.</p><p>About 1,600 patients live at the five centers, which operate like board-and-care hospitals for patients whose conditions are so challenging that they cannot live with their families or in group homes. The population at these centers has been slowly declining. This year alone, the number of patients has dropped more than 10 percent.</p><p>Investigating sex crimes against this vulnerable population falls to the Office of Protective Services, a unique police force that operates round-the-clock in these institutions.</p><p>But the detectives and patrol officers have been unprepared to undertake such cases, internal case files show. The records indicate officers have lacked the skills to competently question sex abuse victims, particularly the developmentally disabled.</p><p>Detectives at times closed investigations when patients appeared to get the dates and times of assaults wrong, even though the disabled frequently struggle with precise chronology.</p><p>At the Sonoma Developmental Center, which houses about 500 men and women, two patients accused a caregiver of forcing them to perform oral sex on him.<a name="abuse2"></a></p><p>The Office of Protective Services was first alerted in February 2009. &ldquo;Client reported to staff that she saw (the caregiver&rsquo;s) genitals and was asked to perform oral sex for a dollar,&rdquo; the records said. &ldquo;Client reports that she did.&rdquo;</p><p><a name="corcoran"></a>However, the Office of Protective Services quickly closed the case, the records indicate, because the suspect was not listed as having worked in the patient&rsquo;s unit, called Corcoran, on the day of the alleged abuse. The accused caregiver did often work in that unit, though, internal records show.</p><p>Months later, the mother of a second patient alerted the center that her daughter had said she had licked the same caregiver&rsquo;s penis.</p><p>But by then, the accused caregiver was gone. He is not identified by his full name in state records. The center&rsquo;s incident log noted that the psychiatric technician suspected of the abuse was &ldquo;no longer employed&rdquo; but &ldquo;did work on the unit.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Sexual abuse cases reviewed</strong></p><p>Earlier this year, Leslie Morrison, head of the investigations unit at Disability Rights California, examined dozens of case files in which a patient accused a center employee of sexual abuse from 2009 to mid-2012. Morrison performed the review at the request of the state Department of Developmental Services. She said these cases involved only patients capable of speaking and therefore able to report an assault.</p><p>Disability Rights, a protection and advocacy organization, has access to full patient files under state and federal law. Many of these records are confidential, but California Watch was able to obtain through other sources some of the documents provided to Disability Rights.</p><p>California Watch&rsquo;s parent organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting, has sued the state for additional abuse records that can shed more light on these and other cases. A superior court judge ruled that the state should <a href="http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/release-uncensored-developmental-center-citations-ordered-18076" target="_blank">open its records</a>, but the state is appealing.<a name="suingstate"></a></p><p>Morrison said she found 36 cases in which victims likely should have received a rape kit medical exam and interview with a trained nurse. But, she said, the Office of Protective Services investigations were incomplete and <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/522239-disability-rights-calif-march-2012-testimony.html#document/p5/a82014" target="_blank">at times deeply flawed</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not sure they have the training to do these very delicate, sensitive interviews,&rdquo; Morrison said.</p><p><a name="morrison"></a>Disability Rights argues that outside law enforcement and forensic nurses &ndash; who have years of experience interviewing victims and identifyingphysical evidence &ndash; should have taken over the institutions&rsquo; sex crime cases.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re better off referring it to the specially trained people whose job it is to do that and only that,&rdquo; Morrison said.</p><p>The Department of Developmental Services now agrees, according to its written statement.</p><p>Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed legislation<a name="brown"></a> requiring that the centers report alleged sex assaults against patients to outside law enforcement. The new law, SB 1522, &ldquo;will ensure developmental center investigators and outside law enforcement agencies work collaboratively to investigate unexplained injuries or allegations of abuse,&rdquo; the statement said.</p><p>The centers have a long history of sex abuse against patients, which California Watch reported in stories earlier this year.</p><p>In one case from early 2000, police records show, a female patient at the Sonoma Developmental Center accused a male caregiver of sexually assaulting her during a bath. The institution then assigned two men to bathe the patient, even though the facility employed many female caregivers.<a name="bath"></a></p><p>Both caregivers allegedly raped her on July 6, 2000, during bathing.</p><p>Developmental center officials did not report details about the assaults to the Office of Protective Services. Four days after the second alleged rape, the police commander at the Sonoma facility received an anonymous tip about the incident. Officials launched an investigation, but no arrests were made.</p><p><strong>Early struggles in Jennifer&rsquo;s care <a name="jennifer"></a></strong></p><p>Few cases are more disturbing than that of Jennifer, the former Sonoma Developmental Center patient who suffers from bipolar disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, in addition to severe intellectual disabilities, the patient&rsquo;s medical records show.</p><p>For most of Jennifer&rsquo;s childhood, her mother said, doctors struggled to pinpoint what drove her daughter&rsquo;s outbursts. When angered, she would scream and slap herself and anyone else within reach. Other times, she was sweet, even overjoyed when surrounded by her parents and siblings, her mother said.</p><p>Jennifer lived peacefully enough in one group home until she was about 14. Her behavior turned unstable, and the teenager was regularly moved among privately run homes in the community that proved ill-equipped to care for her.</p><p>&ldquo;She started (going) from group home to group home to group home,&rdquo; her mother said in an interview. California Watch does not identify victims of sexual assault or their immediate family members.</p><p>Patient advocates had told her mother that the best way to diagnose and treat her daughter&rsquo;s behavioral conditions would be to admit her to an institution. She would be observed at all times, they told her; developmental center staff members are far more experienced at prescribing drugs to tame disorders.</p><p>Her mother said she was wary and resisted the advice &ndash; initially. But she also was exhausted from years of strain overseeing Jennifer&rsquo;s care without a complete diagnosis. She relented in 2002, and Jennifer, then 27, moved into the Sonoma Developmental Center.</p><p>&ldquo;To have her on the right course of medication, that was the only reason to have her there,&rdquo; Jennifer&rsquo;s mother said.</p><p>At the time, the Sonoma center housed about 850 patients<a name="sonomapatient"></a> and was the nation&rsquo;s largest institution for the profoundly developmentally disabled. Built more than a 100 years ago in wine country, it is an open campus, flush with green lawns and walking paths.</p><p><a name="sonoma197"></a>From outside, Sonoma&rsquo;s residences resemble single-family homes more than dormitories, featuring front stoops and yards. Patients lounge together on porch swings.</p><p>Sonoma administrators assigned Jennifer to the Corcoran Unit, a peach-colored building tucked in the center&rsquo;s far eastern end. Its red tile roof is covered with dead leaves and branches from the towering oak tree that shades the residence&rsquo;s main entrance.</p><p>Everything was fine for a few years, the mother said. Her daughter came home many weekends. At times, however, her mother noticed injuries.</p><p>Bruises were not necessarily alarming. Jennifer would occasionally hurt herself. At one point, Jennifer cut her scalp badly. The Sonoma caregivers explained that she had been banging her head against the wall, her mother said. The center put Jennifer in her own bedroom, padded the walls and fitted her with a helmet.</p><p><strong>Injuries, then pregnancy</strong></p><p>In 2006, the patient&rsquo;s injuries changed. Bite marks broke her skin and bruises surfaced on her back and breasts. Court records show Jennifer accused a Sonoma caregiver of touching and bruising her. She showed the center&rsquo;s employees and her mother the resulting injuries. <a name="bitemarks"></a></p><p>The mother said someone clearly had been grabbing Jennifer&rsquo;s breasts with violent force. The bruises were unlike anything she had ever seen on her daughter.</p><p>&ldquo;I can tell if a bruise was an accident because she bruises easily; I bruise easily,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a big deal. But I could tell when a bruise is really not a bruise, you know what I mean?&rdquo;</p><p>A social worker at the Sonoma center told the mother that the Office of Protective Services had investigated the matter thoroughly, but detectives couldn&rsquo;t prove Jennifer&rsquo;s allegation that the caregiver had bruised her.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course, it&rsquo;s her word against his,&rdquo; Jennifer&rsquo;s mother said. &ldquo;Nothing was done.&rdquo;</p><p>Records show the institution&rsquo;s doctors, nurses and caregivers overlooked or ignored her pregnancy until Jennifer was well into her second trimester. Jennifer&rsquo;s disabilities make her incapable of giving consent to sex. Her mother discovered Jennifer&rsquo;s swollen belly during a weekend visit at her family&rsquo;s home in July 2007. <a href="http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&amp;group=00001-01000&amp;file=261-269" target="_blank">Under state law</a>, any sexual intercourse with a patient lacking the intellectual capacity to consent is considered rape. <a name="consent"></a></p><p>Jennifer&rsquo;s son was born by cesarean section in October. No one was arrested in Jennifer&rsquo;s rape.</p><p>&ldquo;I was a hands-on mom, and I fought for my daughter&rsquo;s security,&rdquo; Jennifer&rsquo;s mother said. &ldquo;And I still wasn&rsquo;t able to protect her. Who protects these people?&rdquo;</p><p>The month that Jennifer gave birth, the Office of Protective Services received a letter from a whistle-blower that named a janitor as the alleged rapist, but didn&rsquo;t inform the Sonoma County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office about the lead for three months, according to court records from a lawsuit Jennifer&rsquo;s family filed against the state.</p><p>By then, the accused janitor had <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/368184-sonoma-dc-rape-litigation-dds.html#document/p12/a81959" target="_blank">fled the country</a>, court records said.</p><p>Regardless, the institution&rsquo;s officers did not attempt to gather physical evidence through a sex assault examination that might have supported criminal prosecution of Jennifer&rsquo;s assailant.&nbsp;And the center&rsquo;s internal records show that&nbsp;patients have continued to allege sex abuse&nbsp;in the unit where Jennifer lived.</p><p>Her family settled a civil lawsuit with state Department of Developmental Services for $100,000.&nbsp;Jennifer now lives in her own apartment. Like all California residents with developmental disabilities, Jennifer is entitled to and receives services from the state.&nbsp;</p><p>Her mother and family members and have hired<strong> </strong>a caregiver to take care of her. They are all women.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Few sex crimes referred for prosecution</strong></p><p>Statewide, the Office of Protective Services referred just three sex crime <a name="threecases"></a>cases to county district attorneys for prosecution since 2009, said Morrison with Disability Rights California. In those cases, officers did not collect any physical evidence to determine whether crimes occurred. Just one of those cases led to an arrest.</p><p>In one incident from January at the Sonoma Developmental Center, caregivers noticed that two female roommates appeared to have injuries suggesting abuse &ndash; bruises on their faces and arms. The caregivers told the Office of Protective Services, but there was no detailed investigation.</p><p>In May, another employee of the center caught a longtime caregiver, Rue Denoncourt, exposing himself to one of those female patients in a bathroom. The colleague reported the incident to the Office of Protective Services, which then notified the Sonoma County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office.</p><p>The sheriff&rsquo;s office interviewed Denoncourt, who confessed to exposing himself and sexually abusing the victim&rsquo;s roommate, forcing her to touch him while he masturbated.</p><p>Even after Denoncourt <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/413132-sonoma-icf.html#document/p80/a69170" target="_blank">admitted to the abuse</a>, records from the state Department of Public Health show neither the sheriff&rsquo;s office nor the Office of Protective Services sent the victims to receive sexual assault examinations. If evidence of other assaults was available, it was lost.</p><p>No investigation took place into the bruises that were discovered on both women in January, although the health department raised suspicions about Denoncourt in its report.</p><p>Denoncourt pleaded no contest to a lewd conduct charge in August and is serving an eight-month prison term. The Sonoma County sheriff and district attorney declined to comment for this story.</p><p><strong>Allegations of interference </strong></p><p>Three former members of the Office of Protective Services allege that administrators and other employees at developmental centers have interfered with abuse investigations.</p><p>Pete Araujo, a former investigator at the Fairview Developmental Center in Orange County, said his commander refused to approve sex assault exams for victims.<a name="refusetesting"></a> Araujo said his superiors provided no explanation for denying the exams, and no one within the force challenged the decisions.</p><p>&ldquo;Their word was final,&rdquo; said Araujo, who is now an investigator for the California State Lottery Commission. &ldquo;They were the managers.&rdquo;</p><p>Employees at the institutions have delayed notifying police of alleged sexual abuse for days, said Greg Wardwell, a 20-year veteran patrol officer and sergeant at the Sonoma center. The lost time can leave physical evidence open to contamination and witnesses vulnerable to coercion.</p><p>Wardwell, who retired in March 2011, said center administrators did not punish employees for withholding information about abuse.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very frustrating at the point that someone is genuinely victimized and you didn&rsquo;t find out about it for four or five days,&rdquo; Wardwell said. &ldquo;There is no sanction at the point that somebody sits on the information.&rdquo;</p><p>The Department of Developmental Services did not respond to the officers&rsquo; allegations of interference.</p><p><strong>Policy hinders investigations </strong></p><p>The Office of Protective Services&rsquo; own policy has made it difficult for officers to order sexual assault exams. For patients to receive an exam, <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/412439-ops-retrain-policies.html#document/p20/a68945" target="_blank">the guidelines require</a> that &ldquo;a sexual assault occurred within the preceding 72 hours and there is potential for recovery of physical evidence of the recent sexual assault.&rdquo;<a name="guidelines"></a></p><p>The &ldquo;and&rdquo; is underlined and italicized in the written policy.</p><p>Experts on sex assault investigations said using the words &ldquo;potential for recovery&rdquo; threatens to shut off an investigation before it starts. Detectives cannot determine what evidence is present before a medical exam.</p><p>&ldquo;That latter part shouldn&rsquo;t even be in there,&rdquo; said Linda Ledray, a forensic nurse and director of the Sexual Assault Resource Service in Minneapolis. &ldquo;I mean, that&rsquo;s crazy.&rdquo;</p><p>Kim Lonsway, research director for End Violence Against Women International, agreed that the Office of Protective Services&rsquo; sex assault policy could undermine investigations.</p><p>&ldquo;The tone of this is the exams are going to be the exception rather than the rule,&rdquo; Lonsway said.</p><p>Further, the 72-hour time limit is outdated, said Hopewell, the Riverside police detective. Hopewell said physical evidence sometimes is recoverable two weeks after an assault. She will request a medical exam even in cases in which a victim was attacked two years earlier, because scars can be shown to support allegations.</p><p>Delgadillo, director of the state Department of Developmental Services, implemented the Office of Protective Services&rsquo; first policy on investigating sex assault four years ago. The department had no specific guidelines for police on investigating sex abuse before 2008,&nbsp;only&nbsp;that they be required to complete<strong>&nbsp;</strong>a state minimum of<strong>&nbsp;</strong>four hours of training.<a name="fourhours"></a></p><p>Experts said many cases are hampered because some investigators, administrators and even family members distrust allegations by the intellectually disabled. Detectives investigating sex crimes against the disabled often need special training in the nuances of extracting evidence from these types of patients. Such training has never been offered to the state police force.</p><p>&ldquo;Even if it is reported, the victim is often not believed or is thought to be fantasizing or to have merely misinterpreted what occurred,&rdquo; Joan R. Petersilia, a criminology professor at UC Irvine, wrote in a 2001 <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/325971-crime-victims-with-dd.html#document/p18/a81960" target="_blank">study of disabled victims</a>. &ldquo;This leaves the person with a disability continually vulnerable to victimization, because perpetrators come to learn they may victimize them without fear of consequences.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201212030850/a" target="_blank">Listen to this story on KQED&#39;s California Report:</a> <object height="85" width="335"><param name="movie" value="http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf" /><param name="flashvars" value="file=http://www.kqed.org/radio/archives/R201212030850a.xml" /><embed flashvars="file=http://www.kqed.org/radio/archives/R201212030850a.xml" height="85" src="http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="335"></embed></object></p> Public Safety developmental center developmentally disabled patient abuse police sexual assault Broken Shield Thu, 29 Nov 2012 08:05:03 +0000 Ryan Gabrielson 18683 at http://californiawatch.org