California has assembled a unique police force to protect about 1,800 of its most vulnerable patients - men and women with cerebral palsy, severe autism and other mental disabilities who live in state institutions and require round-the-clock monitoring and protection from abuse.
But an investigation by California Watch has found that detectives and patrol officers at the state's five board-and-care institutions routinely fail to conduct basic police work even when patients die under mysterious circumstances.
Most abuse cases simply are logged but never prosecuted, including the suspicious death of a severely autistic man whose neck was broken. Three medical experts said the 50-year-old patient, Van Ingraham, likely had been killed. But the center's detective, a former nurse who'd never investigated a suspicious death, failed to identify what - or who - had caused the fatal injury.
The police force, called the Office of Protective Services, often learns about potential criminal abuse hours or days after the fact - if they find out at all. Of the hundreds of abuse cases reported at the centers since 2006, California Watch could find just two cases where the department made an arrest.
Read more of Ryan Gabrielson's California Watch article HERE.