Local police officials say the statute of limitations could confound any new investigations into priest sex abuse revelations contained in a trove of documents released recently by the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese since many of the allegations are decades old.
Local police didn't immediately uncover any sex abuse reports lodged against priests named in the files, but officials said they would investigate any claims that arise. Still, investigating the cases can pose a challenge since police are limited by penal codes that take into account when the crime occurred, what was committed and when it was reported.
“Due to the delay of any allegations coming to the attention of law enforcement authorities, there are complications involving the statute of limitations and any investigation of the related crimes,” Burbank police spokesman Sgt. Darin Ryburn said.
The Los Angeles Police Department told the Los Angeles Times this week that detectives planned to comb through the files to decide whether any allegations could be investigated.
Last week, the archdiocese posted personnel files concerning 122 priests on its website following a Los Angeles County Superior Court order to make the documents public.
The files include 12,000 pages of previously confidential personnel files of clergymen who were named in a 2007 settlement in which the archdiocese agreed to pay $660 million to settle hundreds of sex abuse claims.
The Glendale Police Department hasn't received any new reports since the documents were released, police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said, adding that combing through the files could take considerable time.
“If the victim doesn't report it to us, we've got nothing to investigate,” Lorenz said. “We are not just going to open a case.”
He added that police will monitor the Los Angeles Police Department's investigation and pair up any cases from Glendale should they arise.
Burbank police officials planned to also work with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to investigate allegations that may have occurred in the city, Ryburn said.
In Pasadena, a police sergeant in the Youth and Family Services Section will work with other law enforcement officials to identity any crimes that may have occurred in that jurisdiction, said department spokeswoman Lt. Tracey Ibarra.
“If an investigation is generated with a specific victim and perpetrator, the Pasadena Police Department will share the information with the public as appropriate to not hinder the investigation and protect the victim's identity as outlined by the Victims' Rights Bill,” Ibarra said.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the organization was encouraged that local police plan to look into any sex abuse allegations mentioned in the files.
But she said sex abuse allegations involving clergy members were much larger than the Los Angeles region and warranted a grand jury investigation.
The files, Dorris said, show significant efforts were made on behalf of the archdiocese to cover up sexual abuse by its priests and not report incidents to law enforcement officials.
“We feel a grand jury has a bigger scope,” Dorris said. “It's bigger than what just happened in L.A.”