What We Do
Office of Protective Services: Responsibilities and Challenges
The Department of State Hospitals (DSH) and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) serve a challenging and vulnerable population. DSH treats patients with mental illness, many of whom have committed serious crimes and acts of violence. Patients admitted to DSH are committed for treatment by a criminal or civil court judge. More than 90 percent of DSH patients are forensic commitments. These patients are sent to DSH through the criminal court system and have committed crimes linked to their mental illness.
Likewise, DDS maintains residential facilities for adult clients with severe intellectual developmental disabilities affecting their ability to sufficiently care for themselves and live safely in the community. Admission to developmental centers requires a court order and is based on a formal determination that the developmental center is the only residential setting available to insure the individual’s health and safety. Referrals for admission are made through the 21 regional centers located throughout the State of California.
Each state hospital and developmental center maintains its own facility-specific law enforcement and investigation department called the Office of Protective Services (OPS). These units provide overall security for the departments’ facilities and investigate crimes committed within the facilities as well as violations of administrative policies. The units employ sworn officers and investigators to conduct these investigations.
Over the years, various state agencies and the legislature expressed concerns about the ability of DSH and DDS OPS to effectively carry out their responsibilities and ensure the safety and security of patients and clients. For example, in a July 2013 report, the California State Auditor concluded that poor leadership, poor-quality investigations, outdated policies, and staffing problems at the OPS within DDS put the safety of residents at risk. In addition, the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) found similar problems within DSH OPS. The problems included an inability to recruit and retain qualified staff, inconsistent and outdated policies and procedures, and a lack of independent oversight, review, and analysis of investigations.
Legislature Establishes OLES
In 2015, the California Legislature enacted Welfare and Institutions Code section 4023.6, 4023.7, and 4023.8 to solidify the role and responsibilities of the Office of Law Enforcement Support (OLES). The legislature intended OLES provide contemporaneous oversight and support of law enforcement operations within state hospitals and developmental centers to address identified deficiencies within the departments’ Office of Protective Services.
Section 4023.6 requires the Office of Law Enforcement Support to investigate specified incidents at a developmental center or state hospital, including any incident that involves developmental center or state hospital law enforcement personnel, which meets certain criteria. Section 4023.7 also established that OLES be responsible for contemporaneous oversight of specified investigations by the State Department of State Hospitals and the State Department of Developmental Services. The law also requires the Office of Law Enforcement Support issue regular reports, no less than semiannually, summarizing the investigations it conducted and its oversight of investigations.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 4023.6, 4023.7, 4023.8.
In order for OLES to meet its oversight mandate, the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), are required to timely report specific types of incidents to OLES. Serious allegations of misconduct are reported telephonically within two hours of discovery. Other allegations are reported to OLES via electronic mail within one business day of discovery.
The OLES reviews all incident notifications at a daily Intake meeting staffed by a panel of assigned attorneys and investigators. Based on statutory requirements, the panel determines whether allegations against law enforcement officers warrant an investigation by the OLES. If the allegations are against other DSH or DDS staff members and not law enforcement personnel, the panel determines whether the allegations warrant OLES monitoring of the departmental investigation.
Investigations Involving Law Enforcement
Pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 4023.6 et seq., OLES is required to investigate allegations of serious misconduct by DSH and DDS law enforcement personnel. These allegations include policy or procedure violations that affect patient, resident, employee or facility safety and security, or violations that have a detrimental impact to the overall agency, department or facility operations. These allegations may involve administrative or criminal wrongdoing such as excessive force, dishonesty or falsification of official documents.
Allegations of law enforcement personnel misconduct are typically received from both DSH and DDS via an established notification system, but may be received via electronic communication or physical mail from patients, residents, family members or patient and resident advocates. If an allegation is determined to meet the established criteria for further inquiry or administrative or criminal investigation, it is assigned to an OLES investigator.
All OLES investigations are submitted to the hiring authority for their review and action. If an OLES investigation into a criminal matter reveals probable cause that a crime was committed, OLES submits the investigation to the prosecuting agency. To allow the hiring authority or prosecuting agency adequate time for implementation of any action deemed necessary and ensure employee rights are adhered to, OLES established a 120 day benchmark for completing investigations from the time OLES is notified of an incident.
After OLES’ Intake panel determines a case meets the statutorily imposed monitoring criteria, the case is assigned to an OLES Attorney Investigation Monitor (AIM). The AIM collaborates with the assigned Office of Protective Services (OPS) investigator to develop a thorough and comprehensive investigation plan, will review documents and evidence, visit the scene of the incident and monitor investigative interviews. Once the investigation is completed, the AIM reviews the investigator’s draft report and make recommendations as needed. The AIM also consults with the investigator concerning recommended findings.
In the case of a criminal investigation, after the investigation report is finalized and there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, the investigator will submit the report to the local district attorney’s office for review and filing decision. The OLES does not monitor the actions of the district attorney. However, if the case is administrative, the final report is provided to the hiring authority for review. The AIM consults with the directors about the sufficiency of the OPS investigation and findings on the allegations. If allegations are sustained, the AIM will also consult on the selection of the appropriate penalty. Real time consultation is essential to ensure the disciplinary policy and process is being applied in a consistent and fair manner.
In the event an employee files an appeal of the disciplinary decision with the State Personnel Board (SPB), the AIM will consult with the department attorney, review all legal filings and briefs, and monitor the SPB hearing.
Finally, upon the conclusion of a case, whether criminal or administrative, the AIM assesses key data points of the departments’ performance for publication in the OLES semiannual report.
Recommendations and Monitored Issues
An important element of OLES’ oversight responsibilities includes identifying systemic insufficiencies within DSH and DDS OPS and making appropriate recommendations to achieve best practices. In March 2015, OLES provided the Legislature with a report that described the then existing challenges faced by law enforcement at DSH and DDS and included recommendations for improvement. The OLES continues to identify systemic issues that hamper efforts to standardize best practices, conduct research and make recommendations. However, since 2015, OLES reports these deficiencies directly to the departments, track the departments’ corrective action plans and report these deficiencies in the Semi-Annual Report under “Monitored Issues”.
Pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code section 4023.8, the Office of Law Enforcement Support (OLES) is required to publish a report concerning its monitoring activities no less than every six months. The OLES must submit its reports to the:
Policy and Budget Committees
Joint Legislative Budget Committee; and
The statute also mandates OLES report on specific topics and issues as listed below:
Summary of Investigations
Summary of Monitored Cases
Additional Mandated Data
Status of Law Enforcement Best Practices
Monitored Issues (Systemic issues identified by OLES)
To view these reports, click on “Reports” in the navigation bar above.