Renfroe bill to require police notification over abuse at youth facilities

State Sen. Scott Renfroe reportedly plans to sponsor a bill that would require youth detention facilities to notify local police when allegations of abuse or assault are reported. The Greeley Republican was quoted in the Greeley Tribune and by Fox News as citing two recent cases of abuse in a Weld County facility. But allegations of abuse have been far from limited to just that facility in recent years.

From the Greeley Tribune:

There have been allegations against the Platte Valley Youth Services Center that concern the treatment of the juveniles being held there and whether the administrators are reporting incidents to the Greeley police.

Those incidents, reported in an Associated Press story, included:

» A girl’s wrist was broken in two places by a security guard who used thumb restraints to calm her down.

» A developmentally disabled boy said he was injured when he was handcuffed for refusing to obey orders.

» A boy nearly lost an eye when he was assaulted by other youths at the facility.

Earlier this year, the Weld County Department of Human Services investigated the three alleged abuse cases and department spokeswoman Liz McDonough said they found no wrongdoing by employees.

But Renfroe said that investigation isn’t enough.

“This puts the practices and procedures of the facility into question,” Renfroe said Tuesday. “To be properly investigated, these things have to be reported to the police.”

Similar allegations of assault and excessively restraining patients — many of which were unreported to police — have been reported elsewhere in Colorado in recent years. Notable among the complaints were those stemming from Devereux/Cleo Wallace, which has facilities for troubled youth in Colorado Springs and Westminster.

A decade ago the Devereux/Cleo Wallace facility in Colorado Springs was the target of investigations for excessively restraining patients. Then the Department of Human Services stopped referring patients to Cleo Wallace for a period, citing concerns about patient safety, until the operators agreed to a series of reforms.

In one case in 2003, a 15-year-old girl, Orlena Parker, died after she became agitated, was pinned face-down by at least six, possibly seven, adult staff members, and stopped breathing. Details of exactly how she died varied; police were called in that case because a death resulted.

But in other cases, the police were not called, including one involving a 14-year-old boy who suffered a cracked vertebra when he was restrained by two adult staffers.

A separate allegation at Cleo Wallace involved an 11-year-old boy who said he was overmedicated, causing him to fall asleep in class, and was then placed in a “quiet room,” where he was kicked in the stomach by an employee.

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Cara Degette

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