Child Protective Services and police are not cooperating in serious child abuse cases as required by a 2003 law, county and state officials said Wednesday.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said at a news conference that he is troubled by the breakdown in cooperation. But an Arizona Department of Economic Services official said the CPS statistics that Thomas used are unreliable.
“We believe there are many more cases being investigated jointly with law enforcement than is reflected in our numbers,” said Tracy Wareing, director of DES, the CPS parent agency.
Police, CPS and the county attorney are required under the 2003 law to create and follow a joint protocol for responding to accusations of serious child abuse.
Thomas said that according to CPS data, police and CPS failed to work together on 1,710 of 2,492 cases — or 69 percent of the time — when the state agency initiated investigations.
CPS did not respond 22 percent of the time, or in 174 or 790 cases, when police initiated investigations.
Wareing said the numbers may be off because the cases may not be getting coded properly.
“I and the people of this county deserve answers,” Thomas said.
Wareing said CPS is going to pull a significant sampling of cases that should have been investigated jointly to determine if they were properly coded.
“If there are cases that aren’t being investigated with our law enforcement partners that we should be, then we will fix that,” Wareing said.
Thomas said his further concern with CPS involves the Team Decision Making, or TDM program, in which many or all interested parties — including the victim and alleged abusers — meet to discuss the victim’s placement.
Thomas said the process can lead to further victimization, undermining police investigations and taint evidence.
Wareing said TDM is a proven process for determining placement and refused to grant Thomas’ request that CPS stop using it.