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At Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi’s disciplinary hearing, no ruling made. What’s next?

At Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi's disciplinary hearing, no ruling made. What's next?
BOSTON — Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi said Friday that she wished she handled her first meeting with a Natick dispatcher who was sexually assaulted by a Natick police sergeant differently.

But Rossi, during a Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission hearing, said she was worried about the victim and was worried about her well-being.

“I had an obligation to do more,” said Rossi, who was a Natick police lieutenant in 2020. “I know that. I wish I had. At the time, I was thinking about her, and I was thinking I didn’t want to put her in a position she didn’t want to be in.”

Friday’s hearing was heard by hearing officer Judith Cowin, a retired Supreme Judicial Court justice. The hearing could potentially result in Rossi being suspended or ordered to undergo retraining.

Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi inside the women's locker room in the new Ashland Public Safety Building at 12 Union St., April 3, 2023.
Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi inside the women’s locker room in the new Ashland Public Safety Building at 12 Union St., April 3, 2023.

Prosecuting attorney Shaun Martinez, in his opening statement, alleged Rossi failed to properly investigate the sexual assault complaints that eventually led the conviction of now-former Sgt. James Quilty on a former dispatcher.

Rossi is also accused of confronting a witness, Natick police Lt. Allan Graham, and berating him at the Natick Police Department and making him feel intimidated, Martinez said.

More: Ashland’s suspended Police Chief Cara Rossi has hearing with judge on Feb. 14

Martinez alleged that Rossi showed a “pattern of behavior in unprofessional conduct,” and would benefit from retraining.

Rossi’s lawyer, Leah Barrault, argued in her opening statement that there was “no clear and convincing evidence” that Rossi engaged in any unprofessional behavior. She said the victim did not want to make a report and the department had no sexual harassment policy in place at the time of the incident.

Several witnesses testified in Friday’s hearing, including Rossi, Graham, Natick Police Chief James Hicks and Natick police dispatcher Tracey Rourke.

Witness told Natick sergeant about sexual assault

The victim was assaulted by Quilty, who was referred to as JQ throughout the hearing, in April 2020 during an after-shift drinking get-together in a parking lot near the station.

Rourke testified that the victim told her about the assault but said she did not want to tell anyone about the incident. Rourke, though, said she told Graham, who was a sergeant at the time.

Rourke said she did not consider telling Graham about the incident as an official report. She also said she told Graham she did not think the victim had the “fortitude” to go forward with a complaint.

Hicks testified he never heard about the incident until June 2020 when another lieutenant said he heard rumors about a possible sexual assault involving Quilty and the victim.

More: Ashland manager has made his selection for police chief. Here’s who it is

Hicks said he spoke to Rossi, who said she heard the same rumors, and Hicks said he told Rossi to begin an investigation.

“I was informed a few days later that she spoke to the victim,” said Hicks. “She (Rossi) stated to me the victim did not want to make a complaint about anything that occurred.”

The following weekend, Graham emailed him, Hicks said, and told him there was much more to the incident. Hicks said he told Graham to file what is known as a “First Officers Report,” about the incident, which generated an investigation. Hicks said he, along with the town administration, thought it would be best to have an outside agency conduct an investigation.

Chief said Rossi’s perfect record led to reduced suspension

Because of what he felt was a failure by Rossi to investigate the incident, Hicks said he suspended Rossi for five days, but with only two days to serve, as well as two days of retraining. He said Rossi had no record of any past disciplinary issues, so that’s why she only had to serve two days of the suspension.

“She took responsibilities for her actions but felt like there were reasons for her actions,” Hicks said.

Rossi testified she was told by Graham, whom she considered a friend at the time, about the incident. She said Graham told her that Quilty had gotten “handsy” with the victim. Rossi said Graham also told her several times that he was not supposed to know about the incident, and that Rourke was not supposed to tell him.

Without the victim coming forward, Rossi said she felt like she could not investigate. In June 2020, Hicks told her to investigate, and she brought the victim into her office.

She said when she asked the victim if anything happened, the victim wouldn’t even look at her.

“She said … she was facing away from me, she wouldn’t look at me, and she shook her head no,” said Rossi. “I asked if she meant, ‘no, nothing happened,’ or ‘no, you don’t report it.”

Rossi said she told the victim that something similar had happened in the past, and if she didn’t want to speak about it at the station, she could arrange to meet her outside of work.

Rossi said the victim got up in anger and asked if she could leave. The entire interview lasted four minutes.

The victim has filed a civil lawsuit in Norfolk Superior Court against Quilty, the department and Rossi, claiming Rossi intimidated her during the conversation.

More: Victim of ex-Natick police sergeant’s assault has filed suit against him, town

Rossi said she never interviewed Quilty about the incident, because if she had done so, it could have jeopardized any future prosecution.

“If I had interviewed him, he wouldn’t have been criminally convicted,” Rossi said.

Rossi said during her testimony she wished she handled things differently and had Graham write a First Supervisor’s Report when he first told her about the incident.

“If I could have done anything in my life over again, I wish I had done something different then because we wouldn’t be here now,” Rossi said.

Rossi admits to argument with Graham

Rossi also denied she berated Graham when she went to the Natick Police Station on June 2, 2023. She said she had gone there on a private matter to meet with Hicks’ personal assistant to get something notarized. Graham was working that day and had to use a badge to open a door for Rossi.

The pair, she said, got into an argument, but she said it was both of them, not just her intimidating Graham. She said she felt Graham had culpability and felt he should have been disciplined as she was.

Graham, who said he considered Rossi one of his best friends prior to the incident, testified that he told Rossi about the incident and thought an investigation was taking place. He said he spoke to her about other incidents.

More: Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi’s final POST Commission hearing is Friday: What we know

He said he only found out in June that there was no investigation because he heard Quilty was up to be promoted to a full sergeant rather than a provisional sergeant and mentioned to a lieutenant that he believed Quilty had committed a felony.

Later that day, Graham said, he got a call from Rossi about speaking to the chief, and he said she told him, “We’ll have to come up with something,” which he said he took as to make up a story about why there hadn’t been an investigation.

In the June incident, he said Rossi came to the station in her non-work clothes and seemed to be in a good mood. When he opened the door to let her up to the second floor, “Her face changed,” Graham said.

She began to question him about him knowing about the POST investigation and made disparaging remarks about Rourke and other officers.

“She was angry,” said Graham. “I was in shock. I was caught off-guard.”

He said the argument lasted about 30 minutes and Rossi cried several times during that time. He said he was worried Rossi would claim he “verbally assaulted her,” so he sent an email to Hicks, Deputy Chief Brian Lauzon and the POST Commission about the incident.

“I went through a lot of feelings throughout … when she was upset — she was a good friend of mine,” said Graham. “I just felt intimidated. People ask why I didn’t just walk away. I had no answer. I had no answer for that.”

Graham said he never filed a First Officer’s Report until Hicks told him to because he felt, as a sergeant, his role was done when he reported the incident to the chief.

Graham, under cross-examination, said he thought he told investigators about the “We’ll have to come up with something,” comment, but said he may have been mistaken.

Graham’s allegations of being intimidated by Rossi were investigated by an outside agency, which found insufficient evidence anything had occurred. When asked if he agreed with the finding, Graham said, “I accepted it.”

Closing arguments to be in writing

Both Martinez and Barrault declined to give closing arguments on Friday; rather, they asked Cowin if they could submit their arguments in writing. Cowin agreed, giving them until April 10 to file them.

Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-832 or For up-to-date public safety news, follow him on X @Norman_MillerMW or on Facebook at

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Ashland Chief has hearing for sexual assault investigation in Natick

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