Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: California Watch investigates Office of Protective Services
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.