In the end, the long-awaited review of the case of former Boston police officer Patrick M. Rose Sr. didn’t answer every question. We still don’t know — and now we may never know — just who at the Boston Police Department was involved with the decision to keep Rose on the force, even after the department’s own investigators concluded he had molested a child in 1995. Just as important, we still don’t know why — why the department showed so little interest in holding him accountable.
But that disappointing outcome doesn’t mean the review has no value. Acting Mayor Kim Janey ordered the review more than three months ago and assigned the task to the brand new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, a (thus far) one-person agency that hadn’t even been assigned a budget at the time. The five-page review contains three sensible reforms — all steps in the right direction — to ensure a similar case never happens again.
The review — prepared by Stephanie Everett, the attorney who was named inaugural executive director of OPAT — provided no new information about the allegations themselves. Rose was charged in 1995 with indecent assault on a child; months later, the police department also investigated and “sustained” the allegations. But the criminal charges were dropped, and despite its own findings, the department “did not take sufficient steps to discipline or terminate” Rose, according to Everett’s report.
Everett’s recommendations include that her office should be notified when charges are brought against officers and that investigations on criminally charged officers begin almost immediately, instead of months afterward.
The report, released Thursday, draws heavily from a 1992 independent study on the Boston Police Department, commonly called the St. Clair Commission Report. Then-mayor Ray Flynn commissioned the study on policing following a series of troubling incidents involving the department. Everett concludes that, had the city heeded the findings from the commission — which found, among other things, that the police’s internal affairs division was not actively investigating complaints against officers facing criminal charges because it was misinterpreting applicable law — the Rose case might have had had a different, better outcome.
Still, an obvious question remains unanswered: the proverbial who knew what and when. Everett’s report notes that no one at BPD ever even recommended that Rose be fired, despite the finding that he probably broke the law. But she names no names. Janey was asked about this in a press availability on Thursday. “The police who were involved in that case at that time have all since retired,” she said. “It is unclear to me whether there will be any effort in terms of criminal justice to look further into that. . . . No one is working for the City of Boston who was involved in that case at that time.”
But who were the supervisors or officials who did not act on Rose’s sustained finding of culpability? Who made the annotation in Rose’s internal affairs file that read “try to settle prior to hearing”? The public deserves to know who was ultimately responsible for Rose’s avoiding any discipline or termination throughout his more than 20-year police career.
Meanwhile, the acting mayor said she is not planning on releasing any more pages of Rose’s internal file. “We have already released everything we could have released without jeopardizing survivors’ identities,” Janey told the Globe editorial board in an interview conducted last week before the review’s release. “We’re not going to play this game around salacious details and re-traumatizing victims.”
That’s reasonable; nobody needs to see details that would identify or humiliate the alleged victims. But Janey could and should be releasing more information around Rose’s protectors within the department. Nothing short of full accountability will restore trust in the department — and nothing would do more to ensure that the latest reforms stick than the knowledge that officials who mishandle cases like Rose’s in the future will be held publicly accountable.
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