A former patrol officer at the youth detention centre in New Hampshire was allowed to continue his job for nine months despite police investigation in which he was accused of holding a young boy down while his colleagues raped him, according to reports.
Despite narrating the 1990 incident at the then Youth Development Center in Manchester by the survivor, David Meehan, the accused James Woodlock only went on leave in November 2017, months after the allegations were brought forth, the state attorney general's office told the Associated Press.
Woodlock has not been charged criminally
While Woodlock has not been charged criminally, officials said it is unclear whether his leave was voluntary, paid, or any action was taken against him before he went on leave. Officials also denied answering questions on when they learned about Meehan's allegations.
"The prospect that an abusive adult continued to work with children for decades is incredibly alarming," said Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "It speaks to the need for ongoing training and oversight of any institution where children live."
Reports suggest it is unclear when Woodlock left the job at the Youth Development Center and became a juvenile probation officer. However, his position as the latter is shown since 2009 on public employee records. He was even nominated for "Exemplary Leadership and Service in Juvenile Justice" award in 2015.
Criminal investigations and leaves
Investigation revealed four months after his initial leave in November, he resumed work with the same job title of juvenile probation and parole officer but in an administrative office at the Division of Children, Youth and Families which oversees the detention centre. Reports revealed officers have not revealed whether his position allowed him to work with children.
Records reveal that he retook leave on July 23 a day after two former counsellors at the centre were indicted for a dozen rape charges. His leave was also two days before the state attorney's office announced opening a broad criminal investigation into staff operation at the centre between 1990 and 2000.
Kate Spiner, a spokeswoman for the office of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, confirmed that Woodlock was among the defendants in a class-action lawsuit filed January 11 that alleges decades of abuse at the facility, according to reports. The trial includes two former counsellors facing criminal charges, three other former workers, and the detention centres and agencies overseeing the institution.
Rape allegations or 'misunderstood events'
Meehan's attorney Rus Rilee also represents 35 other men and women who have accused authorities and staff members of abusing them as children from 1982 to 2014. Meehan, in his statement, accused Woodlock of beating and holding him down during rapes that took place in the institution in 1995 when he was 14 years old. He revealed that after he spoke up during a group counselling session, Woodlock told him that he has "simply misunderstood events."
"It is frightening to know that this man has been continuously employed by the state and working with this vulnerable population of children since Mr Meehan left YDC in 1999," Rilee was quoted as a saying.