With a new elder abuse investigative and reporting form, Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task force is standardizing the processes for elder abuse, implementing best practices and providing more training to help law enforcement in this complex area.
According to The Detroit News’ recent article, “Mich. task force rolls out new elder abuse reporting form,” state law enforcement associations will distribute new forms, a list of best practices for elder abuse investigations and training videos to assist police officers to better understand and respond to elder abuse.
“People are not getting caught and this is one of the reasons,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference announcing the initiative Tuesday. The model’s development is part of the ongoing work of the Elder Abuse Task Force established this year.
The Attorney General remarked that the form will bring some clarity to what can be, a complicated investigation. Law enforcement must look for signs of physical abuse or neglect, as well as financial evidence from banks, legal documents, and purchases.
“People will know now that law enforcement is really paying attention to crimes that earlier, it wasn’t that they didn’t care about, it was that they needed assistance in identifying these crimes,” Nessel said. “Now people know that they’re watching these types of offenses.”
Michigan doesn’t have a specific elder abuse statute, so many elder abuse cases are investigated using a standard police report form that looks to establish whether the suspected crime could fall under the vulnerable adult statute, said Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter, division chief for the department’s Financial Crimes Unit.
“It’s a very complex crime,” Teter said. “There’s not a lot of teaching in the police academy on it.”
The program helps to create best practices across the state for the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse, according to Michigan State Police Director Joe Gasper. He said that it’s similar to a standardized form created in 1994 to help law enforcement investigating domestic violence cases.
“The form aids in identifying not only physical abuse but financial abuse,” Gasper said. “This will be a good foundation for all law enforcement to follow.”
The new form will prompt officers to identify items that may qualify a person as a vulnerable adult, like if they need assistance walking, cooking, bathing, driving, or taking medication. Officers will use a checklist for potential signs of physical risks, like bodily injury, dehydration, soiled conditions, bad odors, or malnutrition. The form also requires officers to find out if a senior is at risk of financial harm through a “parasitic” caregiver, poor care, the person controlling the victim’s bank account, or through legal provisions that remove an individual’s decision-making capacity, such as guardianships, conservatorships or power of attorney.
One of the challenges of prosecuting elder abuse cases in the past has been a lack of legal documents, financial statements and photographic evidence of the senior’s living conditions. These are things that need to be proved in a courtroom but aren’t necessarily the first thing on a police officer’s mind when looking at elder abuse cases.
Reference: The Detroit News (September 10, 2019) “Mich. task force rolls out new elder abuse reporting form”