A father and his teenage daughter walked into the Hyde Park police station last August and reported a heinous crime.
The girl said she had been repeatedly molested from age 7 through 12 by former Boston police union president Patrick M. Rose Sr. Five more people soon came forward, accusing Rose of molesting them as children over the span of three decades, including the girl’s own father.
Rose being tagged as a child sexual abuser was news to the city when he was arrested and charged last summer. But it wasn’t news to the Boston Police Department where Rose served for two decades as a patrolman.
A Globe investigation has found that the Boston Police Department in 1995 filed a criminal complaint against him for sexual assault on a 12-year-old, and, even after the complaint was dropped, proceeded with an internal investigation that concluded that he likely committed a crime. Despite that finding, Rose kept his badge, remained on patrol for another 21 years, and rose to power in the union that represents patrol officers.
Today Boston police are fighting to keep secret how the department handled the allegations against Rose, and what, if any, penalty he faced. Over the years, this horrific case has come full circle: The father who brought his daughter in last summer to report abuse by Rose was the boy allegedly abused at age 12 in the 1995 case. The department’s lack of administrative action back then may have left Rose free to offend again and again, from one generation to the next.
Prosecutors now say the boy recanted his story under pressure from Rose, a common phenomenon for young survivors of abuse when faced with demands from their abuser. Though the criminal case against Rose was dropped as a result, a separate police internal affairs investigation went forward and concluded Rose broke the law.
Boston police won’t say what, if any, disciplinary action was taken against Rose. But it is clear the department did little or nothing to limit his contact with children, and allowed him to salvage a career that led to the union presidency, where he became the public face of the city’s 1,500 patrol officers.
The Globe investigation raises significant questions about how the department handled Rose, whose broader history of alleged molestation has only become clear now that he is jailed facing 33 counts of sexual abuse of six victims from age 7 to 16 in Suffolk Superior Court. For security reasons, he is being held in the Berkshire County Jail on $200,000 cash bail.
His attorney, William J. Keefe, said Rose is fighting the charges.
“My client maintains his innocence to all of the charges that have been brought against him and he maintains his innocence to what was alleged to have transpired back in 1995,” Keefe said.
Even after the department learned of the alleged abuse in 1995, the Globe review found, Rose was allowed to have contact with vulnerable children. Boston police dispatched him in 1999 to help a 14-year-old girl who was crying at a pay phone, calling to report she had been raped, department records show. Later, Rose gave a special needs child a ride home in his squad car. And in 2006, records show, he was called to testify as the arresting officer in a child sexual assault case.
“What we’re describing here is an example of an institutional and systemic failure,” said former Boston police lieutenant Tom Nolan, who now teaches at Emmanuel College. ”The department had a responsibility to ensure that this individual was no longer employed in the ranks of the Boston Police Department.”
The nation’s oldest police force, which has a history of trying to keep misconduct in the ranks secret, has refused Globe requests since October to release records from Rose’s internal affairs file. The documents would likely show the details of the allegation, how it was handled, and what steps were taken as the case rose through the chain of command.
Even after a rebuke from the state’s supervisor of public records, former mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration last month said it would not release the files. The supervisor said the city had failed to meet its legal threshold to withhold the files, but the administration was steadfast. The administration said the records were impossible to redact in a way that would comply with a state law that shields the identities of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The police department has drawn a similar hard line in other cases — or cited other laws — to withhold entire internal affairs files of officers accused of misconduct, including that of suspended police Commissioner Dennis White, who faced allegations of domestic violence raised by his former wife.
Advised of the Globe’s findings on Rose and the department’s response to his alleged abuse of a child, Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey released a statement critical of the department’s actions and vowed to push for more transparency.
“The allegations in this case are incredibly disturbing and warrant thorough scrutiny,” Janey said.
“It is appalling that there was a documented history of alleged child sexual abuse, yet this individual was able to serve out his career as an officer and eventually become the head of the patrolmen’s union for several years,” she added. “Under no circumstance will crimes of this nature be tolerated under my administration, and we will not turn a blind eye to injustices as they arise.”
The department in a statement said it was legally prohibited from commenting “on the facts and circumstances of the 1995 investigation of these horrific allegations.” But the department said that social services and the district attorney’s office were both involved in the 1995 case.
“The investigation into the allegations against Patrick Rose faced significant evidentiary and proof issues that ultimately made it impossible for the district attorney’s office to sustain a conviction and for the department to levy the appropriate discipline,” the statement said.
Most of the police officials from the 1990s who might’ve had a role in responding to the allegation against Rose are no longer with the department. Key former officials — including internal affairs investigator Sergeant Detective Eileen Vanderwood, Captain Detective Melbert J. Ahearn, and Internal Investigations chief Ann Marie Doherty — did not respond or declined requests for comment.
Former commissioner Paul F. Evans also did not respond for comment. A department spokesman said it was unknown whether Evans was made aware of the findings of the investigation in the 1990s.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement she found it “extremely troubling” that Boston police did not properly discipline Rose or restrict his access to children.
“The allegations from decades ago are an example of how systems can fail people,” Rollins said, noting that there are now multiple victims making nearly identical allegations against Rose.
“It is heartbreaking. … Child sexual assault cases can be difficult to prove as perpetrators frequently target victims they hope nobody will believe.”
Rose’s accusers declined to comment. The Globe does not identify survivors of sexual assault.
The renewed allegations against Rose come as law enforcement and other institutions face new pressure to examine how they have handled cases of abuse. A comprehensive review, and reconsideration of past procedures is essential, said Elizabeth Jeglic, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“It is important from a systemic point of view to understand what went wrong and how to fix that,” said Jeglic. “Unfortunately, [society] didn’t recognize the severity of these types of crimes and intervene appropriately.”
“Now institutions are being held accountable,” Jeglic said.
Boston’s police department has a long history of protecting its own from accountability, particularly if the officer, like Rose, is white, said retired deputy superintendent Willie Bradley, who is Black.
“The police department’s refusal to actually deal with this issue is a direct contributor to what (later) happened,” said Bradley. “It would have been out there and people would have been aware of it, but they hid it.”
“In my opinion, that’s criminal,” added Bradley, who is now a lecturer and professor at Massasoit, Endicott, and Curry colleges.
The 66-year-old Rose was born in Brookline into a large family and bought a home in West Roxbury in 1978. He served in the National Guard, rising to the rank of major, according to the patrolmen’s union. The police department hired Rose on June 22, 1994. He worked his entire career in Dorchester’s District C-11.
After just a year on the force, trouble emerged. The 12-year-old boy reported to law enforcement that in June 1995 Rose sexually abused him, according to a docket archived in West Roxbury District Court and other records.
The records show Sergeant Detective John McLean of the BPD’s Sexual Assault Unit filed a criminal complaint against Rose on Dec. 1, 1995, for indecent assault and battery of a child under 14. (McLean, who retired in 2006, did not respond to requests for comment.)
In more recent court records, prosecutors said the boy did not disclose “the full extent of the abuse” at the time. The case stayed out of the news. “After receiving pressure from the defendant, the child ultimately recanted the abuse,” prosecutors said. The case was then dropped.
It is not uncommon for children, traumatized and intimidated, to retract allegations. A 2007 study found that nearly one out of four abused children recanted, particularly those with unsupportive caregivers or who were subjected to old-fashioned interview techniques used in the 1990s and ill-suited for the questioning of minors.
“Since then a lot has changed based on science,” said Jeglic, the John Jay professor. “Back then a lot of it was just trying to get information. And we know the more formal interviews that a child undergoes, the more likely they are to recant.”
Prosecutors dismissed Rose’s criminal case on May 7, 1996.
The department then conducted its own internal affairs investigation into Rose, as is the case with any police employee accused of misconduct. These internal cases have a lower burden of proof than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard for a criminal conviction, requiring only a “preponderance of evidence,” which is essentially 51 percent or more likely than not, said Nolan, the retired police lieutenant.
In this case, internal affairs “sustained” the administrative charges against Rose, meaning investigators found “sufficient evidence to support the allegations.”
The department has declined to disclose what, if any, disciplinary action it took, or whether Rose was placed on leave during the investigation.
Rose remained a police officer for another 21 years.
The alleged abuse persisted. Prosecutors now allege in court records that Rose’s abuse of the 12-year-old “continued and escalated” after the criminal case was dismissed. During the same time period, he allegedly molested two other children.
In the police department, Rose never rose above the rank of patrolman. But in the patrolmen’s union, Rose gained power, serving alongside President Thomas J. Nee.
The union’s longtime attorney, Thomas Drechsler, defended Rose’s 1995 criminal case and internal affairs proceeding. Drechsler, who became a superior court judge in 2014, declined to comment.
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association did not respond to requests for comment.
Rose ran for union president in December 2014 and ousted Nee, winning the vote of some 80 percent of patrol officers. Commissioner William B. Evans issued a statement at the time, congratulating Rose. (Evans told the Globe he was unaware of the 1995 allegations.)
As union president, Rose helped patrol officers win a new contract and led a fight against officers wearing body cameras.
Even during the years of his union presidency, Rose allegedly preyed on a new generation of children, prosecutors say. He retired in 2018 and collects an annual pension of just under $78,000.
Then last August, a father took his daughter to the police station in Hyde Park, and Rose’s world imploded in the face of a wave of court charges.
It is not at all unusual that such allegations would come long after the purported offense. It takes courage to step forward, and sometimes even to remember what happened in early childhood. The average abuse survivor takes 20 to 30 years to report the crime, according to psychologist Howard Fradkin, who has counseled more than 1,000 male survivors of sexual abuse.
“Many times the people that I worked with suppressed memories or buried it until the time that their children reached the same age that they were when they were violated,” Fradkin said. “And then all of a sudden it comes to the surface because they begin to go, ‘Wait a minute. Now I see what a 12-year-old looks like, and that’s how old I was.’
“Oftentimes that’s when people start recovery,” Fradkin said.
Rose, when he appeared in court at his August arraignment, did not speak. The once powerful union president had his wrists cuffed together and held his two hands over his face.