A District program designed to protect vulnerable adults repeatedly failed to report to police substantiated incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation, leaving open the prospect of "unabated" problems, the city's inspector general found.
In a scathing review of the Adult Protective Services program, a component of the D.C. Department of Human Services, D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby warned the city was risking continued harm to seniors and the disabled.
"APS rarely refers cases to or investigates cases with the Metropolitan Police Department," investigators wrote. "As a result, criminal activity may continue unabated and perpetrators' actions may not be investigated and prosecuted, thereby putting the safety and well-being of APS clients and other potential victims at risk."
In two years, the report said, APS substantiated 251 reports of neglect, abuse and exploitation, for an average of 10 a month.
Referrals to police, though, were rare -- with APS acknowledging that in a one-month period, it only reported two cases. Statistics for other months were not immediately available Wednesday.
In its response to investigators, the program blamed the lack of a formal system to communicate with police, but Willoughby questioned whether APS even wanted a partnership.
"In addition to the absence of a formal agreement between the two agencies, there appears to be a general perception that collaboration with MPD is not necessary," investigators wrote. "APS employees did not seem to emphasize or even express a need for collaboration with MPD."
Willoughby said the District's APS stood out for its lax cooperation with police.
"APS entities in other jurisdictions routinely collaborate with and/or refer cases to law enforcement authorities for further investigation and possible indictment," he wrote in the review.
Ward 1 D.C. Councilman Jim Graham said the report alarmed him.
"I find this amazing and upsetting," Graham told The Washington Examiner. "The fact that this has not been in place is startling to my mind. MPD has a very important role to play in these investigations."
At Willoughby's urging, APS has agreed to create a formal agreement for future partnerships with police. The policy will include a requirement for APS employees to report "known or suspected" criminal activity.
Reggie Sanders, a spokesman for the human services department, said the agency is planning additional reforms.
"While significant changes have already occurred, DHS is working diligently to make further corrections," Sanders said.