Police officials in Buffalo, N.Y., for years followed a policy of not investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by Roman Catholic priests, the Buffalo News has reported.
In a major investigative story, the newspaper's Dan Herbeck reported May 19 that the police department's policy until 1994 was to turn complaints about priests over to church officials to be dealt with internally.
"The department's unwritten policy was that Catholic priests did not get arrested," Martin Harrington, a retired detective, told the News. "I never had any experience with priests who molested children. I never heard of any priests molesting children. But we had priests we caught with pornography or masturbating in the city parks, and our orders were to turn them over to the Buffalo Diocese. The diocese would deal with them ... but they would not be arrested."
Martin Jurewicz, a former vices-quad lieutenant, backed up the claim.
"When I joined the vice squad in 1968, the department had just changed its policy on priests," Jurewicz said. "You used to just let them go. Starting around 1968, when you picked up a priest, you had to call the bishop's office. The bishop's office would send someone to pick up the priest. No arrest was made. The diocese handled these problems."
The policy covered only priests and did not extend to clergy members of other faiths.
The department's lax policy on allegations of sexual misconduct by priests may have fostered an atmosphere where members of the Catholic clergy felt empowered to commit crimes against children. The News surveyed old records but found no instances of police in Buffalo charging a priest with molesting a child in the past 50 years, even though a number of allegations were later made.
The News quoted a retired police captain who recalled an incident that occurred in the 1970s. A couple in Buffalo came to a police station and accused a priest of molesting their son. Two detectives were assigned to investigate the matter and later reported that they had uncovered enough evidence to back the parents' claim, but the priest was not arrested.
"All that happened is that he was transferred immediately to another parish," said the retired captain, who spoke to the paper anonymously. "It was a horrible thing. If this happened today, I would make sure it was handled differently. We should have been arresting these people."
In another case, Buffalo police officers found a priest, the Rev. David Bialkowski, in a parked car...