Investigations Advisory Panel
In June 1997, in response to the report, the recently appointed commissioner of DDS convened a multidisciplinary investigations advisory panel with representatives from the judiciary, law enforcement, academia, and families of clients from throughout the Commonwealth. The panel reviewed and evaluated DDS's investigations unit and its practices and procedures, including those regarding notifications to and coordination with local police and prosecutors.
Most of the problems hampering the effectiveness of DDS's investigations unit were found to be systemic in nature and included issues such as
- Confusion over which state agency had jurisdiction for a particular complaint.
- Excessive caseloads for DDS investigators and poor relations between DDS and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, an independent oversight agency with statutory authority to conduct adult protective services investigations.
- Lack of a layered system prioritizing the most serious cases and the insufficient, untimely, and, in some cases, lack of referrals to the appropriate law enforcement and criminal justice authorities.
- Absence of formal procedures and cooperative agreements with law enforcement agencies for managing and investigating complaints of criminal conduct.
The panel's recommendations focused on the screening and investigation of crimes committed against people with developmental disabilities. The recommendations presumed a strong risk assessment and protective services capacity to move swiftly, compassionately, and effectively to provide emergency protective services to people with developmental disabilities who are in at-risk or established risk situations. Recommended screening protocols included the following:
- Identifying the specific information required for a complaint or referral.
- Referring suspected felony abuse to law enforcement in a consistent and timely manner.
- Creating criminal investigation teams within the DDS investigations unit to collaborate with law enforcement and criminal justice authorities in a manner comparable to investigations involving child sexual abuse.
- Requiring DDS investigators to complete basic and advanced criminal investigations training.
- Requiring law enforcement to attend basic or inservice training regarding adult protective services investigations and other disability-related issues pertinent to their work.