Texas Police Want Elder Abuse Training, But 9 of 10 Don’t Get It: Study

A survey of Texas police officers found that half of officers have encountered elder abuse in the field and could have benefited from training detailing how to deal with such situations, according to a study from the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University.

But 9 out of 10 officers received no such training, according to the survey.

From a summary of the study:

Law enforcement officers are often the first to respond to and investigate suspected cases of elder abuse, but nine out of 10 officers receive no training on how to handle these cases, according to a study by the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University.

In a survey of Texas law enforcement leaders and training instructors, more than half of the 272 officers who participated said they have faced situations involving elderly persons in the field and could have benefited from training on the topic.

The majority of those surveyed said they would like mandated training on elder abuse to be offered at police academies, and others polled would like to have a one-time training available for all sworn officers.

“Estimates are that 10 percent of our elder population are victims of some form of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation,” said Victoria Titterington, co-author of the study and a professor in the SHSU  Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. “Yet, experts have reported that knowledge about elder abuse lags as much as two decades behind the fields of child abuse and domestic violence. It is imperative that law enforcement learns to recognize elder abuse indicators, communicate with elders and investigate suspected elder abuse in a way that ensures that victims are protected and offenders are held accountable.”

Although many states include bits and pieces of elder abuse training as part of larger programs, only two states — Florida and California — have adopted state-mandated training on elder abuse for police. Texas, along with the vast majority of states, have not — but in this recent study, law enforcement leaders expressed interested in several elder abuse-related training topics:

In the survey, Texas law enforcement leaders said they would like to see several topics addressed in future training initiatives, including:

Gaining knowledge about aging

Understanding dementia

Reporting requirements for elder abuse

Working with Adult Protective Services

Interviewing elderly persons

Investigating elder abuse

Preventing elder abuse

Addressing elderly drivers

The study is called “Elder Abuse Training Needs Assessment for Law Enforcement in Texas.”

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