Newly released records offered more details on Thursday about how disgraced Boston police patrolman and former union president Patrick M. Rose Sr. was able to keep his badge for 20 years after investigators concluded he likely molested a child.
The 360 pages of heavily redacted documents made clear that more top police officials than previously known were aware of the allegation against Rose, who ultimately pleaded guilty in April to molesting six children.
But the new records still failed to answer the most fundamental question: Who in the Police Department authorized Rose’s return to patrol, where he interacted with children and victims of sexual assault for more than two decades?
The documents do show the decisions to return Rose to full duty were, in part, the result of the efforts by his attorney at the time, Thomas Drechsler, a lawyer for the police patrolmen’s union who is now a Superior Court judge.
The records also made clear that the initial criminal case was not dismissed because Rose was innocent, but rather because the victim was unwilling to cooperate with the investigation and the patrolman had attended therapy. In an affidavit supplied by Dreschler, the victim suggested that they had been coerced by police investigators. Police noted that the court-mandated therapy for Rose was itself “recognition of the existence of a problem.”
“Horrible injustices took place in Boston here,” Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday.
Wu released the records in the face of mounting pressure and a public records lawsuit filed by the Globe in 2021, before she took office. The mayor told reporters Thursday that the files showed “systemic failures” that allowed Rose to not only keep his badge but to rise to power and lead the influential patrolmen’s union.
“These documents . . . don’t answer every question that we have,” Wu noted. “My hope is that [this] release of the full file shows the larger context and continued urgency for the City of Boston and our Police Department.”
The revelation last year that top officials had known about the allegations against Rose since 1995 underscored how far the Police Department had gone to protect its own. It came just as the new police commissioner, Dennis White, had been forced from office after the Globe unearthed decades old allegations of domestic violence that had been minimized — claims that White denied.
A police spokesman declined to comment Thursday and referred questions to City Hall.
Rose, 67, pleaded guilty in April to molesting six children over the span of decades, including the original victim from 1995. Under a plea agreement, Rose was sentenced to 10 to 13 years in prison, but could be released on parole after serving less than a decade.
The newly released records — dating to the mid 1990s — show that Rose’s lawyer, Drechsler, threatened legal action against the Police Department if it did not return Rose to full active duty. Drechsler declined Thursday through a court spokesperson to comment.
In 1997, Drechsler sent the department a letter that included an affidavit in which Rose’s victim disavowed the abuse allegations. The material also included an affidavit from one of the victim’s guardians.
“In light of the affidavit [from the victim] . . . I would request that my client be put back on full duty forthwith,” Drechsler wrote in a letter to the Police Department, which also challenged the decision at the time to keep Rose on administrative duty.
The documents also referenced two reports of sexual assault that were provided to police from two outside agencies. That 31-page section of the police report was entirely redacted. Wu and other city officials would not say which outside agencies filed the reports, because they said it might reveal the identity of the victim. The Globe reported last year that state child welfare investigators also believed in 1995 that there was evidence that Rose had abused a child.
The latest documents also included a memo from November 1995 sent to Rose’s then-commanding officer, Captain Robert P. Dunford, describing the sexual assault allegations. The memo contradicts Dunford’s claim to the Globe last year that he was never informed of the allegations. Dunford told the Globe Thursday that he still had no memory of receiving any such memo.
“I would have remembered that,” said Dunford, who rose to become the department’s superintendent-in-chief. “They might have typed up that report and put it in the file, but I absolutely would have remembered that type of report with detailed allegations.”
Dunford added that even if he had received the report, he had little power to constrain Rose’s responsibilities after he was returned to patrol.
“My hands were tied. I didn’t have any authority to take action against Rose,” Dunford said. “He wasn’t convicted of anything at this point. How do you take action against somebody if no witnesses would come forward?”
The records show Rose remained on administrative leave for one year after that. Then, he spent another two years on desk duty while his internal affairs case played out. Police officials wrote that his case was prolonged because he refused to cooperate with internal affairs investigators. Rose asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination and refused to waive medical confidentiality that could have allowed access to records from his counseling sessions.
After returning to duty, Rose ascended through the leadership of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and was eventually elected president. The union has disavowed its former leader and said in a statement it supported the mayor’s push to speed up disciplinary probes, which can take years.
”In the best interest of full transparency, we applaud Mayor Wu’s decision to finally release the full case file in the Pat Rose investigation,” union president Larry Calderone said in a statement. “If contractual language would lead to faster and more thorough internal affairs investigations, then the [union] is in full favor of it.”
Rose retired in 2018. Two years later, Suffolk County prosecutors charged him with 33 counts of sexual abuse of six children, ranging from age 7 to 16. Following Rose’s arrest, former mayor Martin J. Walsh refused the Globe’s request to release any records related to the 1995 internal affairs case against Rose.
In April of last year, the Globe published an investigation revealing the details: Rose had been allowed to remain an officer for two decades after the department determined he more than likely molested a child.
Within a day, Walsh’s successor reversed course. Former acting mayor Kim Janey ordered the release of a small batch of records — 13 pages from a 105-page internal affairs file.
The records showed Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans was informed in 1996 that his own investigators believed an officer had sexually abused a child, but that after pushback from the union, the patrolman was allowed to keep his badge and return to patrol. Evans issued a statement last year saying the department did everything it could at the time to hold Rose accountable.
But significant questions remain — and may never be resolved — even though Wu on Thursday released Rose’s full internal affairs and personnel files.
During a television interview in May, the mayor said she had only seen a redacted version of Rose’s file, and seemed to suggest there were limitations of what she could see.
A week later, Wu told the Globe that her comments were misinterpreted, and that she had not properly communicated her position. She sought to clarify that there are general limitations on who can access the report, and that even members of the city’s civilian review board have to obtain certain certifications to access sensitive material. Her aides said she was always been entitled to see the full report, but that she simply hadn’t at the time of the television interview.
On Thursday, Wu portrayed a more complete command of the records. The mayor said that she and her aides “spent hours over the last many weeks going over every word and every line of these documents.” They decided to release the records, Wu said, in a way that would balance her effort for transparency, while protecting the privacy of the victims.
Elizabeth Koh and Evan Allen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Andrew Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia and on Instagram @miltonvalencia617.