State child welfare investigators believed in 1995 that there was evidence that a child had been abused by Boston police Officer Patrick M. Rose Sr., raising more questions about how the future union chief was able to keep his badge for another two decades.
After a year on the force, Rose was charged criminally in 1995 with sexually abusing a child, an accusation that triggered a police internal affairs probe and an investigation by the state Department of Social Services, authorities say.
A Globe investigation published Sunday reported that prosecutors dropped the criminal charge when the victim recanted after being allegedly pressured by Rose. However, the internal affairs probe and the social services investigations went forward and determined there was evidence of abuse.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, whose office is now prosecuting Rose, told the Globe in a statement that the child welfare agency “supported the allegations,” a finding that means there was “reasonable cause to believe” a child was abused or neglected. The agency then closed the case, Rollins said.
At a press conference Tuesday, Acting Mayor Kim Janey vowed to launch an investigation independent of the police department to determine how its internal affairs system “allowed a police officer to remain on the job while preying upon children.”
It was not immediately clear what, if any, steps the state took or whether investigators notified Boston police of the 1995 findings against its officer. As a patrolman for the next 21 years, Rose had contact with vulnerable children and worked on at least two child sexual assault cases, records show.
Massachusetts’ child welfare agency, now known as the Department of Children and Families, or DCF, does not provide information about individual cases because of federal and state privacy laws, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
DCF maintains a central database that includes information about all adults reported to the agency. As a component of that database, the state has amassed a Registry of Alleged Perpetrators for cases of severe abuse in which there is substantial evidence. Names generally remain in the registry for 75 years, according to state regulations.
But it’s not clear if Rose’s name was included in either the database or the registry. Access to these records is severely limited and they are not available to the general public, said attorney Jim Ianiri, who has specialized in area of the law for more than two decades. Educational facilities, school bus companies, and other employers who deal with children can screen job applicants for red flags, but the potential new hire must authorize a full background check.
For someone like Rose, who already worked as police officer, the state probably would not have proactively notified his employer. “You would think so in this kind of case, but it’s unlikely they would do that because of the confidentially issues,” Ianiri said.
Rollins described the fallout from the 1995 allegations against Rose as “an example of how systems can fail people.” Since August, Rose has been jailed facing 33 charges of molesting six children over the span of decades. The former president of the powerful Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association has pleaded not guilty. He maintains his innocence, according to his attorney.
After prosecutors dismissed Rose’s 1995 criminal charge, Boston police conducted a separate internal affairs investigation and determined it was more than likely Rose committed a crime. Despite that finding, Rose kept his badge, remained on patrol, and rose to power in the union that represents patrol officers.
The internal affairs and child welfare investigations of Rose both required lower burdens of proof than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard for a criminal conviction. The police department’s internal affairs case required a “preponderance of evidence,” which is essentially 51 percent or more likely than not. Internal affairs “sustained” the administrative charges against Rose, meaning investigators found “sufficient evidence to support the allegations.”
In the child welfare case, the burden of proof is even lower. Investigators determined that the allegations were “supported,” which means there was reasonable cause to believe a child was abused.
Since Rose’s August arrest, Boston police have fought to keep secret how the department handled the 1995 case and what if any discipline he faced. Former mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration had refused since October to release any records from the internal affairs investigation.
As pressure mounted in the wake of the Globe’s report, Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Monday that her administration would release the documents after redacting the identities of the victims.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Janey said that she ordered the release of the records “as soon as possible” because “transparency cannot wait any longer.” The acting mayor described the records as a “first step” that will be followed by an independent investigation by the city’s new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency.
“As mayor, the likes of Patrick Rose will not be protected on my watch, and those who are complicit in abuses of power will be held to account,” Janey said, adding, “We must change the way that BPD internal affairs works, to make sure that this never happens again.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey lauded the city’s plan to release the documents and explain “why Patrick Rose was able to keep his badge.”
“These alleged crimes should have been addressed, not covered up,” Healey said in a statement. “We need answers and transparency.”
In a new statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Rollins praised the continued courage of Rose’s alleged victims in the wake of unwavering media coverage and urged the media and public to respect their privacy. Rollins said the “quick release of appropriately redacted records will put an end to this re-traumatizing nightmare for the survivors of these crimes.”
“Please imagine how painful it must be for them to face the constant barrage of headlines,” Rollins said. “It is not their fault that Patrick Rose, Sr. is a public figure and that the community seeks transparency regarding the Boston Police’s actions, or inactions, back in 1995.”