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Boston police commissioner was notified of alleged molestation by officer, but patrolman was returned to duty amid union pushback, files show

Despite findings, Patrick Rose kept his badge, worked on child sexual assault cases, and ascended to power in the police union.

Patrick M. Rose Sr., then-president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, testified during a 2016 body camera hearing at Suffolk Superior Court.
Patrick M. Rose Sr., then-president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, testified during a 2016 body camera hearing at Suffolk Superior Court.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans was informed in 1996 that his own investigators believed one of their officers had sexually abused a child, but after pushback from the union, the patrolman was allowed to keep his badge and return to patrol, according to files released by the city Tuesday afternoon.

The officer, Patrick M. Rose Sr., who later ascended to the head of the police patrolmen’s union, would be accused of abusing five more children over the course of decades, according to charges filed against him last August.

The city released the documents after a Globe investigation published earlier this month found that Rose had remained on the force for two decades after the internal investigators determined he more than likely molested a child. The revelation sparked widespread condemnation of the secrecy of a department that has a history of protecting officers accused of misconduct.

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The records released by the city included 13 pages from a 105-page internal affairs file. The remaining 92 pages were withheld by the city to protect the identity of the victims, officials said.

The records made public Tuesday did not indicate that Rose faced any substantive discipline. The department initially barred Rose from carrying a gun and relegated him to desk duty.

In two years, though, Rose returned to full duty after the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association threatened to file a grievance on Rose’s behalf. An attorney for the union sent a letter to Commissioner Evans on Oct 20, 1997, raising a number of issues, including that Rose was denied his firearm, not allowed to work paid details. and deprived of overtime opportunities. Two days later, Evans sent a terse memo to the internal investigations chief, Ann Marie Doherty.

“Please see me on this,” Evans wrote.

The police department’s spokesman, Sergeant Detective John Boyle, said earlier this month that it was “unknown” whether Evans knew the details of the investigation or approved the findings. The documents released Tuesday make clear that Evans was informed of the case.

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“It is clear that previous leaders of the police department neglected their duty to protect and serve,” Acting Mayor Kim Janey, whose administration released the internal affairs records Tuesday afternoon, said in a statement.

“Despite an internal affairs investigation in 1996 that found credible evidence to sustain the allegation against Rose for sexually assaulting a minor, it appears that the police department made no attempt to fire him,” Janey added.

Evans, the commissioner who left the department in November 2003, did not immediately respond for comment. Neither did several other officials named in the records.

The Janey administration noted that both Evans and Rose’s commanding officer, Robert P. Dunford, were notified of the case.

Dunford told the Globe Tuesday, however, that he was never informed of the nature of the charges against Rose.

“I was informed that he was being placed on administrative leave, [but] I was never told why,” Dunford said. “I had nothing to do with the case.”

Tom Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who now teaches at Emmanuel College, said Tuesday that the city’s disclosure still only tells a small part of the larger story.

“[The department] demonstrated a complete lack of transparency from the beginning of this controversy, and this is keeping in lockstep with that,” said Nolan. “Let’s keep and withhold the most damning documents.

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“The public is owed an explanation as to what occurred, rightly or wrongly,” he added.

Said Nolan: “I guess the question remains: Why wasn’t anything done?”

In a reversal of her predecessor, Janey ordered the release of the records in the wake of a Globe investigation that revealed that the department allowed Rose to keep his badge.

The Globe reported that the department in 1995 filed a criminal complaint against Rose for sexual assault on a 12-year-old. Even after the complaint was dropped, the agency proceeded with an internal investigation that concluded that he likely committed a crime. State child welfare investigators also believed there was evidence that Rose had abused a child.

Despite those findings, Rose remained on patrol for another 21 years, had contact with vulnerable children, and ascended to power in the union that represents patrol officers.

Rose retired in early 2018 and was arrested in August of 2020. He remains in jail awaiting trial on 33 counts of abusing six children over the span of decades. Rose has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty. His attorney, William J. Keefe, said he was reviewing the documents released by the city and would have a comment later.

Susan Kang, an associate professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the Rose case highlights what she calls the “internal solidarity” among police — and supports the argument of groups working for increased accountability within law enforcement.

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“When you hear stories [like] this, it does really support this idea that police don’t keep people safe — police keep police safe.”

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association said Tuesday it did not have a comment at this time. Rose climbed through the ranks of the union and served as its president from 2014 through 2017.

The Boston Police Department had refused Globe requests since October to release any records from Rose’s 1995 internal affairs file.

To justify the secrecy, the department cited a law designed to protect the identities of victims of sexual and domestic abuse. In recent months, police officials have cited this same statute — or other laws — to withhold entire internal affairs files of more than a dozen officers, including that of suspended police Commissioner Dennis White, who faced allegations of domestic violence raised by his former wife.

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 of public records said the city had failed to meet its legal threshold to withhold the files, but the administration was steadfast.

Janey took a different approach last week, less than three weeks after becoming acting mayor.

“The victims of these appalling crimes must be protected, but transparency cannot wait any longer,” Janey said last week. She described the release of the Rose records as a “first step” that will be followed by an independent investigation by the city’s new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency.

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“We must change the way that BPD internal affairs works, to make sure that this never happens again,” Janey said.

Janey’s decision came amid intense pressure from a swath of city councilors, mayoral candidates, and members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, many of whom demanded the release of the files and an independent investigation.

This chart depicts how the Boston Police Department's internal investigative process works.
This chart depicts how the Boston Police Department's internal investigative process works. Ryan Huddle

The 66-year-old Rose was hired by the police department on June 22, 1994. He worked his entire career in Dorchester’s District C-11.

After a year on the force, Rose was charged criminally in 1995 with indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. The accusation triggered a police internal affairs probe and included an investigation by the state Department of Social Services.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped the criminal charge because Rose allegedly pressured the victim to recant, a common phenomenon for young survivors of abuse when faced with demands from their abuser. However, the internal affairs probe and the social services investigations went forward and determined there was evidence of abuse.

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.

Internal affairs completed its case on Oct 18, 1996, which was at least five months after the victim recanted and the criminal case was dismissed. Internal affairs investigators “sustained” the administrative charges against Rose, meaning “sufficient evidence supports … the allegations and the offending officer is subject to disciplinary action.”


Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan. Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com.