Police, sheriff, and other peace officers are often called when safety is endangered or a crime might have occurred. While mistreatment of elders and adults with disabilities, like other forms of family violence, has traditionally been viewed as a family problem, criminal justice systems are adapting to better address elder abuse and neglect as a criminal issue.
In addition to exploring ways to strengthen cases for prosecution, law enforcement agencies also work with social services providers, community sentinels, and other local resources to protect the safety and welfare of elders and adults with disabilities. Victim Services can assist individuals and families with navigating the criminal justice system, advocacy, crime victim compensation, crisis intervention, and counseling. Specifically, law enforcement may undertake any of the following in cases of elder abuse:
- Arrest perpetrators
- Enforcing restraining orders
- Perform “well-being” checks
- Provide assistance to APS in conducting investigations
Law enforcement also play a role in prevention. They may participate on multidisciplinary or community teams, coalitions, or forums to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. One example is TRIAD, a group of three sectors of a community that partner to keep older adults safe from crime: public safety, criminal justice, and the older adult community. The purpose of Triad is to promote older adult safety and to reduce the fear of crime that older adults often experience. Once a Triad is formed, a SALT Council is created, which is a group of community representatives who implement programs and activities to achieve the objectives. To learn more about TRIAD and SALT Councils, please visit the website of the National Association of Triads.
Law enforcement may also participate in training programs to cover elder abuse and the special needs of elderly or disabled persons in their curricula. For example, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Institute (FLETC) provides an Elder Abuse Instructor Training Program. The course is designed to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement professionals tasked with delivering training related to the abuse of older adults. Law enforcement may also join other professions to engage in cross-training, such as partnering with APS to train both law enforcement and APS personnel. The APS trainers provide law enforcement background on working with victims and helping them to recognize when APS should be called, even if it doesn’t appear that a crime has occurred. Law enforcement can help APS learn more about when to call law enforcement, some basics about forensic interviewing to help build cases, and about worker safety.