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EDITORIAL

Many questions remain in the case of former Boston police union leader Patrick Rose

After a plea deal, Rose will serve at least 10 years in prison. But the public deserves more answers around who at the Boston Police knew what, and when, regarding Rose’s criminal behavior.

At Suffolk Superior Court on Monday, former Boston Police officer Patrick M. Rose Sr. pleaded guilty to molesting six children over several decades.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

In pleading guilty last week to molesting six children over more than two decades, Patrick M. Rose Sr., the disgraced former Boston Police officer and former president of the patrolmen’s union, avoided traumatizing his victims even more in a trial where they would have had to face their accuser and testify against him.

But while the plea deal provides a measure of justice to the victims, it shouldn’t mark the end of the Rose case. Bostonians are still owed answers from the city and the department — the proverbial who knew what and when — given that Rose was allowed to stay on the police force and rise through the union leadership ranks for two decades despite an internal investigation in 1995 that concluded Rose more than likely sexually abused a child.

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Rose, who retired from the Boston Police in 2018, was arrested in 2020 and charged with 33 counts of sexual abuse of six children, ages 7 to 16. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office dropped five counts of aggravated child rape; Rose was sentenced to serve 10 to 13 years in prison but could be released on parole earlier.

The Rose case dates back to at least 1995, when the Boston Police Department filed a criminal complaint against Rose for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old. The complaint was eventually dropped because the child, under pressure from Rose, recanted, according to prosecutors. But a separate internal affairs investigation launched by the police department continued and found that he probably molested the child.

And it wasn’t just BPD’s internal probe — an investigation by the state Department of Social Services at the time found evidence of child abuse as well.

The reports from the two agencies in the 1990s stand out as pivotal moments that could have changed the course of Rose’s pattern of child abuse. We’ll never know, of course. But it was grossly negligent that, despite the conclusion that Rose probably broke the law, he remained a cop.

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Last summer, then-Acting Mayor Kim Janey released a review of the BPD’s handling of Rose’s case. Janey said in a press conference that no one who was involved in that case at that time is working for the City of Boston. “The police who were involved in that case at that time have all since retired,” she said.

But getting to the bottom of what happened in the 1990s is about more than just who mishandled the case — it’s about how and why they did. While the individuals directly involved might be gone, it would be naive to imagine that the institutional culture in which they made such poor decisions has necessarily changed, or that the barriers to disciplining officers protected by a powerful union are any lower now.

Last year, former police commissioner Paul Evans, who was in charge of the BPD at the time, and former chief of internal investigations Ann Marie Doherty said that “everything that could be done by the Boston Police Department was done in this matter to hold Rose accountable.” What could be done obviously wasn’t enough: If officials back then really had their hands tied by union contracts or legal restrictions, that’s something the public ought to know.

Had there been a trial instead of a plea deal, it would have probably re-victimized the survivors of Rose’s abuse. It’s also possible that a fuller version of the truth could have emerged. But it shouldn’t take a criminal trial to determine who was complicit in keeping Rose in a position of power and authority, and whether the department and its collective bargaining agreements have changed enough to prevent a similar lapse from happening again.

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Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.