The woman later told police that he assaulted her, while “McHale had maintained that any contact between himself and the woman was consensual.”
I’m no fan of Boston’s newspaper of record, but unlike the Boston Globe, I give credit where it’s due, and this week props go to one Dugan Arnett, who broke the story, “Boston police sergeant who bragged about hitting George Floyd protesters with car was previously accused of sexual assault.”
You read that correctly. From Arnett’s reporting:
The Boston police sergeant mired in recent controversy over video footage showing him bragging about intentionally striking protesters with his vehicle is a veteran supervisor with a troubled, complicated past on the police force, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Clifton McHale, a 23-year Boston Police Department veteran with family ties to the department’s upper ranks, was accused in 2005 of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman while in uniform in a police vehicle and agreed to serve a one-year, unpaid suspension following an investigation.
That video in question of course came from the national outlet The Appeal and reporting released last month by journalist Eoin Higgins, which showed Boston “police officers bragging about attacking protesters and multiple instances of excessive force and the liberal use of pepper spray.” From that bombshell:
As demonstrations against police brutality and abuse of Black Americans spread across Boston on the night of May 31 and early morning of June 1, the city’s police department was out in force. Many officers wore body cameras. During the unrest, the cameras recorded hours of footage that the department subsequently stored.
That footage was given to attorney Carl Williams, who is representing some protesters arrested that night, as part of a discovery file encompassing 44 videos and over 66 hours of footage. Williams assembled a team of volunteer lawyers and law students to pore over the videos to find exculpatory evidence for his clients. What they found, however, was something more.
The hours of video, given exclusively to The Appeal by Williams, show police officers bragging about attacking protesters, targeting nonviolent demonstrators for violence and possible arrest, discussing arrest quotas and the use of cars as weapons, and multiple instances of excessive force and liberal use of pepper spray.
More on that shortly, but first, you probably want to hear more about the cop who was caught bragging on camera about hitting protesters, and then tried to reverse his story. As reports from the Globe and other outlets at the time show, back in 2005, McHale was working a detail near Faneuil Hall “when he offered a woman he’d met a ride to her hotel in his unmarked police cruiser.” He reportedly took her into an alley. The woman later told police that he assaulted her, while “McHale had maintained that any contact between himself and the woman was consensual.” More from the Globe:
A year later, McHale agreed with the department to accept a one-year, unpaid suspension after an internal investigation concluded that he had engaged in “inappropriate sexual relations with the highly intoxicated woman,” the Globe reported at the time. Additionally, McHale acknowledged violating rules on take-home police vehicles and failing to properly secure his weapon. Following the suspension, McHale — whose father is a former Boston police deputy superintendent — returned to the department and was later promoted to sergeant.
Just another bad apple, ya know?
According to wokewindows.org, an amazing resource that compiles available police data including internal affairs files, McHale has “at least one sustained allegation, and 3 cases total, regardless of finding.” The Internal Affairs Division has found him “in violation of policies including Untruthfulness, Securing and Maintenance of Firearm, Neg.Duty/Unreasonable Judge, and Conduct Unbecoming.”
Now, you might still be scratching your head, wondering, Are cops really allowed to have sex with drunken people who they offered to take home? What about with people they arrest? In short, yes and no, or really it depends on when it happened. The woman who McHale “engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with” was not in custody, but if she had been, there was no law against it at the time. DigBoston was the first to report that—in an article by Kori Feener back in March 2018. She quoted Peter Manning, who teaches at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, saying the loophole in the Massachusetts law “is striking.”
“I personally doubt that there is any toleration [for such acts]—it might be something that is overlooked,” Manning said. “When people talk about the thin blue line, what they mean is someone might overlook this behavior, not want to know or talk about it. Though they may know some are engaged in this kind of activity, there is a failure to recognize it.”
Thankfully, Newton state Rep. Kay Khan, along with Somerville state Sen. Pat Jehlen and other lawmakers did recognize the problem, and drafted “legislation that addresses the existing loophole by prohibiting officers from engaging in sexual conduct with those in their custody, supervision, or with whom they interact in the course of their professional duties.” It took nearly three years, but that effort was eventually folded into the police reform bill that Gov. Charlie Baker just signed into law on New Year’s Eve. The legislation includes the language:
A law enforcement officer who commits an indecent assault and battery on a person who has attained the age of 14 and who is in the custody or control of such law enforcement officer shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years, or by imprisonment for not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction. In a prosecution commenced under this subsection, a person shall be deemed incapable of consent to contact of a sexual nature with a law enforcement officer.
As for the Boston police, there are some new reforms in place there as well, and some are potentially quite promising, not to mention the work of police reform advocates who have worked on these issues for years and know all the pitfalls.
Still, it’s Boston. Even with these revelations, and appeals from the community, Mayor Marty Walsh last week still expressed confidence in the department. All things considered, I’m guessing that makes him the last person in Boston who doesn’t have a Blue Lives Matter sign in their window who still believes that.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.