In 2011, the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council received a U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women Arrest grant. The focus of the grant was development of an Integrated Protocol Initiative. The scope of the initiative included updating the domestic violence and elder abuse protocols for law enforcement and prosecutors and to create protocols to address violence against people with disabilities. Upon completion of the protocols, in 2013, IFVCC and its partners conducted training of trainers across the state to facilitate local implementation. As a part of the statewide roll-out, the protocols for responding to violence against people with disabilities and older adults were jointly trained. Based upon this experience, it was determined that, though there are differences between older adults and people with disabilities, there are enough similarities in victimology and support requirements between the two populations that merging the protocols will allow a more cohesive response and provide ease of use for law enforcement and prosecutors.
In 2016, in preparation for the merger of the protocols, almost 80 interviews were conducted with law enforcement, people with disabilities, and older adults. Information obtained from law enforcement officers includes the need for more training for working with people with disabilities. The greatest challenge noted by officers is the lack of resources or lack of knowledge about resources. Additionally, spending time with people with disabilities, particularly family members, was suggested as the most helpful experience to increase comfort with people with disabilities.
Interviews with older adults and people with disabilities highlighting their experiences in working with police and their advice for a better response for law enforcement is included in this guide. Information from older adults and people with disabilities indicate a more positive interaction with police when officers take time to respectfully engage and understand how a person communicates. Finally, feedback obtained through the interviews, as well as the insights gained from communicating with local council training teams and previous implementation, form the basis for the new protocols. Workgroups comprised of Advisory Committee members, Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council staff, Local Council Coordinators and local Family Violence Coordinating Council members reviewed the protocols, updated statutes, person-first language and developed new resources for these protocols.
The purpose of this protocol is to effectively guide law enforcement in responding to people with disabilities and older adults who experience domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse, neglect or exploitation through model guidelines, investigative procedures, and legal considerations. Implementation of the protocol will allow for successful partnering with prosecutors, advocates, and others in the criminal justice system in the response to victims who are older adults or those with disabilities. Additionally, implementation supports alignment with legal mandates as well as current best practices. Law Enforcement response is critical to ensuring that victims who are older adults, or those with disabilities, have equal access to the criminal justice system in a compassionate, proactive, individualized manner. Use of this protocol will promote a more coordinated community response with law enforcement by bringing together health care, social service and adult protective services in serving older adults and people with disabilities who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and financial.