There are lessons to be learned from the child molestation case against former Boston Police officer Patrick M. Rose Sr. — and not just the life-altering lessons of children abused by authority figures they are taught to trust.
No, the lesson the acting mayor and any who follow as leader of this city must learn is that the self-serving and callous disregard for the safety of the most vulnerable displayed by the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association back in 1995 must never — never — be allowed to govern policing in this city again.
And that means the next police union contract — now under negotiation — will have to bring about a major power shift and lay the groundwork for serious change in a culture that has too often protected the worst of the worst.
In the small tranche of documents released this week from the Boston Police Department internal affairs investigation file on Rose, one stands out as particularly horrifying, but also telling about the mindset and priorities of union leaders. It’s from a letter sent by a lawyer representing the BPPA to then-Police Commissioner Paul Evans in October 1997, threatening to file a grievance on behalf of Rose if he is not reassigned to full active duty.
Keep in mind that Rose was accused of the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in 1995, and while a criminal complaint was dropped because the child recanted — something that a union representing police officers surely knew is sadly too common — by 1996 internal affairs investigators had sustained the allegations. All that time, Rose remained on administrative duty — collecting his usual paycheck. But that wasn’t good enough for the union and its then-president, Thomas Nee.
“For approximately two years, Officer Rose has been assigned to administrative duty, denied his firearm; not permitted to work paid details or street duty (thereby depriving him of court overtime) and received only limited station overtime,” wrote union lawyer Alan H. Shapiro, setting a deadline for the commissioner’s response to the “financial hardship visited upon Officer Rose.”
So the BPPA was more concerned with getting one of its members back on the department’s notorious overtime/paid detail gravy train than with unleashing on an unsuspecting public a possible pedophile dressed in blue.
Rose, who eventually became head of the BPPA, today stands accused of 33 counts of molesting six children ranging in age from 7 to 16.
Evans and former chief of internal investigations Ann Marie Doherty continue to insist — as they did in a 700-word statement released this week — that “everything that could be done by the Boston Police Department was done in this matter to hold Rose accountable.”
If so, that surely points to the need to change the system — and if a contract ties the hands of the commissioner and the ability of the city to rid itself of those who have disgraced the uniform, then it cries out for change as well.
“The final result of this case was unsatisfactory in the 1990s; it continues to be unsatisfactory now,” Evans and Doherty’s statement added.
And yet somehow Rose remained on the force for another two decades, ousting Nee in 2014 to become BPPA president.
But Evans and Doherty are surely right about one thing.
“In the interest of true transparency, the City should release the Boston Police Department’s entire and properly redacted investigation/report into Officer Rose as the City initially promised,” their statement said. “A review of a properly redacted investigative file would better serve the public interest.”
The city released only 13 pages of a 105-page file amassed on Rose over that child molestation allegation. Acting Mayor Kim Janey continues to insist, as she did again at a Thursday press conference, “What was released was what we could release” and that the city has a “legal and moral obligation” to protect victims of sexual abuse.
“I will not revictimize survivors,” she added.
But the city has forfeited the benefit of the doubt with its long history of delay and denial in this case. Janey’s predecessor, Mayor Marty Walsh, insisted not even a page of the file could be released without identifying the victim. As recently as March 5, the BPD had insisted, “It is not possible to redact this document in a manner that would comply with the underlying statute.” This week’s release, which provided no clues whatsoever about the identify of the victim, demonstrated that claim was simply untrue.
Janey’s new administration, though, raised doubts about its own transparency when it made no mention that the 13 pages it released represented only a fraction of a 105-page file.
Now the public is asked to believe that this time the city means it, and that the remaining 92 pages contain information so closely related to the victim that even redacting a name or description would reveal that identity. What we do know from one released document was that at least three other officers were interviewed by internal affairs investigators about the case. Yet there is nothing in the released pages about their testimony.
Janey acknowledged at her news conference that “key questions remain” about the process that led to Rose spending the rest of his career in uniform and that sorting that out will be the job of Stephanie Everett, who becomes executive director of the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency at the start of May. Janey has given her 45 days to report back on the Rose case.
Janey knows that if transparency and accountability in policing are to mean anything, it must start with her. But that quest for accountability won’t end unless and until a powerful union is forced to acknowledge that public safety means rooting out those who demean and disgrace the badge.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.