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Janey Promises Transparency, But Withholds Records Of Boston Police Officers Accused Of Misconduct04:41
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Acting Mayor Kim Janey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Acting Mayor Kim Janey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Since Kim Janey took over the Boston mayor's office in March, she has dealt with two high-profile scandals involving prominent police officers.

Janey fired police Commissioner Dennis White in June after learning he was accused of assaulting two women years earlier. And she said she was heartbroken and angry to discover that Patrick Rose remained on the police force for 22 years after he was accused of child rape.

Going forward, Janey has repeatedly vowed to release more information about officers accused of wrongdoing.

"My administration is bringing a new era of transparency and accountability to all corners of city government," she said in April. And just last week, Janey condemned the department’s decision to keep the sexual abuse allegations against Rose secret for decades.

But Janey has transparency problems of her own. Over the past four months, her administration has repeatedly withheld records on other officers accused of misconduct.

That includes 13 officers who the department found committed domestic violence over the past decade. The department won’t even provide their names or say whether they remain on the force.

That secrecy concerns advocates and lawyers, including civil rights attorney Howard Friedman.

"Saying we're transparent and accountable⁠—but we can't tell you anything about that⁠—makes one feel that perhaps that's not true," he said.

One case the city refuses to provide information about involves an officer who still works for the department and was accused by his daughter of sexual assault.

Boston police records, unintentionally released by the department under the prior administration, show the daughter told Hingham police in 2014 that her father sexually abused her at their home.

A Hingham detective reported the abuse to Boston police, which ultimately ruled the complaint was unfounded. But the department declined to provide further information, including whether the policeman has been accused of assaulting other people.

Separately, the department says it sustained sexual assault allegations against one other officer no longer with the department over the past 10 years, but refused to provide the person’s name or other details. It is unclear whether that person is still working in law enforcement.

Then-president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, Patrick M. Rose, testified during a hearing over the issue of body cameras for Boston police officers in 2016. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Then-president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, Patrick M. Rose, testified during a hearing over the issue of body cameras for Boston police officers in 2016. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Advocates for sexual assault survivors criticized Boston’s decision to withhold the information.

"If the goal is to build trust in the system," said Duane de Four, interim executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, "if the goal is to ensure that survivors feel safe and comfortable going to the police, then issues like this have to be brought to light and they have to be addressed."

A Janey spokesperson says the city simply needs more time to respond to some requests. That includes a request WBUR made more than three months ago for a list of investigations into officer misconduct. The law normally requires a response within 10 business days.

"If the goal is to build trust in the system, if the goal is to ensure that survivors feel safe and comfortable going to the police, then issues like this have to be brought to light and they have to be addressed."

Duane de Four, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center

Boston also says it is barred under state law from providing records for officers accused of domestic violence or sexual assault. That law is intended to protect victims.

Janey’s office wouldn’t explain how it was able to release some records about Rose and White, but can’t for other officers accused of sexual or domestic violence.

Margo Lindauer, who directs the Domestic Violence Institute at Northeastern University, said she's struck by the inconsistency.

"Why are they sharing some and not others?" she asked. "And if it's in the interest of victim safety, which I imagine they would say, how can they share  that while not disclosing the identity of the victim? There are lots of ways to do that."

Dennis White, in a still image from a video he recorded with his attorney. White is fighting his firing as Boston police commissioner (Courtesy Attorney Nicholas Carter)
Dennis White, in a still image from a video he recorded with his attorney. White is fighting his firing as Boston police commissioner (Courtesy Attorney Nicholas Carter)

The Boston Globe is also suing the city for withholding additional records on White and Rose.

Janey declined to be interviewed for this piece. But in May, she defended her record on WBUR’s Radio Boston after releasing portions of the internal investigation into sexual assault allegations against Rose.

"I have already done, in my first six weeks in office, more to to release files, to be transparent than anyone that I can think of in recent history," she said.

Janey's office also issued a statement, noting her commitment to protecting survivors and releasing information on White and Rose.

"These are important milestones and the work to create institutional systems that are both transparent and responsible continues, led by the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel and the Civilian Review Board," the statement said, referencing the new police watchdog agency and its boards that will provide more oversight of the department.

Still, critics hope the city goes much further — and releases files on other officers accused of wrongdoing.

Sophia Hall, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, said it's especially galling that an agency that's supposed to be keeping the public safe is so secretive.

"There's no reason to think that police officers⁠," she said, "who have been either held accountable or are being investigated for some sort of misconduct ⁠— that you shouldn't have that information as the public, as somebody who they may be protecting and serving."

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can reach the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center at ​​800-841-8371, or via web chat from at barcc.org/chat. Domestic violence resources are available at Massachusetts’ SafeLink hotline at 877-785-2020.


For tips and feedback, contact Ally Jarmanning at allyjar@wbur.org. 

This segment aired on August 5, 2021.

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Ally Jarmanning Twitter Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.

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