Ryan Gabrielson of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch has won the 2013 Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting.
Gabrielson won for “Broken Shield” , an investigative series that exposed shoddy police work at California institutions for the disabled. His stories chronicle the activities of a special police force that patrols California’s five state developmental centers – taxpayer-funded institutions for patients with severe autism and cerebral palsy.
The report found that dozens of women were sexually assaulted inside the institutions, in some cases by staff members, and that investigators assigned to the special police force repeatedly failed to follow routine investigative procedures. As a result, suspects were not prosecuted and molestations of patients continued. In another case, a caregiver was suspected of using a stun gun to wound a dozen patients but police waited at least nine days to interview the suspect – even though a loaded handgun and Taser were found in his car soon after the incident was reported. No criminal charges were brought.
The project prompted several major changes in state law and regulations. It has already won the 2013 George Polk Award for state reporting. Gabrielson also won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize while working at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona.
The Nakkula award is sponsored by the University of Colorado Journalism & Mass Communication program.