It was an admission that raised more questions: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, speaking on a local news show last weekend, implied she was prevented from accessing the full, unredacted internal affairs report of Patrick M. Rose, the former Boston police officer and union president, who last month pleaded guilty to molesting half a dozen children over several decades.
“I have not seen a larger report,” she told Janet Wu and Ed Harding on WCVB’s “On the Record.” “I have just seen the redacted versions.”
The mayor was then asked if she would see the unredacted version. Wu said there are specific rules limiting who can read certain documents in specific instances, noting that even members of the city’s new civilian review board have to obtain certain certifications to access sensitive material. Asked if she would release the full Rose internal affairs file, Wu demurred.
“I am going to ensure that our Office of Police Accountability and Transparency takes this on, along with other issues, and makes their best recommendation for how we move forward,” the mayor replied.
Since then, her administration has declined to answer questions from the Globe about why she could not read the unredacted report. It’s a notable departure for a politician who rode to the corner office in City Hall on pledges of transparency and good government, and promises to overhaul Boston’s troubled Police Department. Wu also isn’t typically press-shy, usually offering some information in response to pretty much all media inquiries.
Moreover, several experts say they can see no legal reason why Wu wouldn’t be able to see the full report.
“We have nothing to add to what the mayor said during her appearance,” a Wu spokesperson said in an e-mail this week.
The city has released just 13 pages from a 100-plus page internal affairs file on Rose. The remaining pages were withheld to protect the identity of the victims, officials have said. Last year, the Globe reported that Rose was allowed to keep his badge for 20 years after top police officials determined he more than likely sexually abused a child in 1995.
Rose, a longtime Boston police officer and former president of the patrolmen’s union, last month was sentenced to serve at least 10 years in prison, capping a case that exposed deep institutional failings within the city’s Police Department, which has a history of protecting officers accused of misconduct.
It remains unclear what specifically Wu, an attorney herself, has or has not seen of the Rose internal probe. Other questions abound, including what is preventing her from seeing the unredacted version: State law? A stipulation in a union contract? Department protocol?
With Boston police deferring to City Hall, and the Wu administration declining to elaborate, legal observers were left to speculate about the details of the situation.
Howard Friedman, a Brookline-based civil rights attorney, said it would defy logic that Wu would only be able to see a small part of Rose’s internal affairs file. There may be a question of what she can talk about publicly, given the case involves sexual abuse, but there shouldn’t be one about whether she can access the full report.
”She’s the chief executive officer of the city,” said Friedman by way of explanation.
Eric Tennen, a defense attorney based in Boston, said he could not see how state law would prevent a Boston mayor from accessing any internal affairs file.
“I wonder if it’s an internal rule or policy,” he said.
Boston police’s own policies regarding internal affairs state, “Information regarding investigations of corruption or alleged criminal activity by members of the Department will be released to the public and media if deemed appropriate by the Police Commissioner or the Chief of the Bureau of Internal Investigations.”
But department rules appear to be silent on whether the city’s mayor can access such information. The mayor appoints the police commissioner and officials are currently in the midst of searching for the next permanent head for the department, the nation’s oldest force.
Regardless of official policy, Tom Nolan, a retired Boston police lieutenant who is now a sociology professor at Emmanuel College, could think of no reason why high-ranking BPD officials cannot give Wu a full briefing on Rose.
“There is nothing that would preclude that,” Nolan said.
Maria “Maki” Haberfeld, chairwoman of the department of law, police science, and criminal justice administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said “there is nothing typical about American law enforcement,” including internal affairs access. For instance, in Florida, every disciplinary record of police, even ones that include unsubstantiated allegations, is available to the public, said Haberfeld.
“Other states are under a dark cloud,” said Haberfeld, whose academic specialty is police ethics.
She thought that the full Rose file should be released with redactions made to protect the identity of victims.
“This is not conduct unbecoming, this is a felony,” she said.
Robert Bloom, a law professor at Boston College, said it’s not unusual for union contracts to have specific language intended to keep “bad acts by police relatively private.”
But James Kenneally, a spokesman for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, said there is no labor provision that would prevent Wu from obtaining such information. He added that the union, which continues to work under an expired contract, has yet to sit down for contract negotiations with Wu.
Last year, The Boston Globe filed a lawsuit against the Boston Police Department, alleging it is wrongly keeping secret the internal investigative files of officers accused of domestic violence or sexual assault.
In 1995, the Police Department filed a criminal complaint against Rose for sexual assault on a 12-year-old. Prosecutors said the child recanted under pressure from Rose, a common phenomenon for young survivors of abuse when faced with demands from their abuser.
After prosecutors dropped the criminal charge, the Police Department conducted a separate administrative investigation that concluded Rose likely molested the child.
In April 2021, Paul Evans, who served as Boston police commissioner from 1994 to 2003, and former BPD internal investigations chief Ann Marie Doherty released a joint statement defending their actions in the Rose case, saying they were unable to discipline him because they did not have a witness or other evidence.
“We believed at the time, and we still believe, that everything that could be done by the Boston Police Department was done in this matter to hold Rose accountable,” the statement read.
But questions about who knew what and when persist, even though the scandal has spanned multiple mayoral administrations.
Former mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration refused to release public records related to the internal affairs investigation of Rose. His successor, former acting mayor Kim Janey, however, released a small portion of the file.
Andrew Ryan and Ivy Scott of Globe staff contributed to this report.