Accused child molester had troubled tenure as a Bristol police officer

Employment records raise questions, red flags about David Barboza’s fitness as a public safety officer in the 1970s

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 10/17/19

Records pertaining to David Barboza’s employment with the Bristol Police, recently released by that department, paint a picture of an employee who was initially enthusiastic about the prospect …

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Accused child molester had troubled tenure as a Bristol police officer

Employment records raise questions, red flags about David Barboza’s fitness as a public safety officer in the 1970s


Records pertaining to David Barboza’s employment with the Bristol Police, recently released by that department, paint a picture of an employee who was initially enthusiastic about the prospect of serving as a police officer, but may have lacked the discipline required for working with the public in the regimented structure of the law enforcement community.

Mr. Barboza was initially brought on board in 1972, at the age of 17, in a summer employment program targeted to students interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. Less than two years later, at the age of 19, he was appointed as a probationary patrolman. Before the summer was out, he was facing an excessive force complaint for hitting a high school student, two years his junior, in the face with a nightstick.

The Bristol Police Department has undergone a lot of changes in the decades between then and now. According to Town Administrator Steven Contente, today’s candidate for the department must be 21 years old with at least 60 matriculated college credits in an accredited college program or at least two years honorable active service in the military.

In May of 1975, a lawsuit was filed by the student, John Cabral, Jr., and his father, John Cabral, against the town, the department, Barboza, and Bristol Police Chief Frank Brown, asking for $75,000 in damages. The suit would eventually be settled out of court, for $5,000.

In November, 1975, Mr. Barboza’s probationary period was up. Chief Brown sent a letter to Town Administrator Augustine Nunes, recommending that Barboza be appointed as a permanent officer. In a letter dated Dec. 11, 1975, Mr. Nunes responded, “Please be advised that I am not acting on this request until I have received the outcome of the pending lawsuit involving Mr. Barboza.”

It is not known what changed in the ensuing week, but in a letter dated Dec. 19, 1975, and addressed to Chief Brown and Mr. Reynolds Northrup, deputy finance director, Mr. Nunes wrote, “This is to inform you that David Barboza will be appointed permanent patrolman as of Monday, Dec. 22, 1975, in accordance with recommendations received from Frank Brown, Jr., the Chief of Police.” Mr. Nunes also sent a letter on that date to Mr. Barboza, which read, in part, “I congratulate you on this appointment but I want to caution you to be more careful in the future when handling people whom you have under arrest.”

It is unclear how the late Chief Brown was able to influence the decision of the town administrator, his boss. Notably absent in the files, which represent all records responsive to this paper’s request for public records, was any reprimand of Mr. Barboza directly from Chief Brown, who saw his own share of legal battles since beginning his employment on the Bristol force in 1957. In 1971, as deputy police chief, Brown was temporarily demoted by newly-elected Town Administrator Michael Balzano, but retained his position after filing a restraining order in Superior Court. He was promoted to chief in 1973, following the retirement of his predecessor; then fired by Mr. Nunes in June of 1976, and reinstated shortly thereafter

In April, 1980, he was fired by Town Administrator Sarah Amaral for mishandling money, illegal lottery sales, calling in a false fire alarm, and attempting to extract cash advances made to a police officer. Despite an appeal that went all the way to Rhode Island’s Supreme Court in 1983, that firing stuck.

Town administrator vs. Barboza

Despite Mr. Barboza’s appointment to full-time status, it would appear that the late Mr. Nunes never really warmed to the idea of Barboza as a permanent public safety officer. Mr. Nunes delivered a blistering performance review, dated March 9, 1976, which read, in part:

“In view of the $5,000 settlement out of court in a brutality charge against you, I have reviewed your performance as a policeman.” Mr. Nunes goes on to cite police code regarding brutality, and continues, “Because the charge … was settled out of court, I assume you did in fact hit him with a night stick … I assume from the fact that the case was settled adversely, that your actions were beyond reasonable bounds for self defense.

“The fact that this incident happened and was settled out of court and consequently reported in the press as it was, has given the citizens of Bristol a bad image of you and by association all your colleagues.”

Mr. Nunes went on to detail two incidents of Mr. Barboza’s conduct which, in Mr. Nunes’ opinion, displayed poor judgement and disrespectful conduct, calling Mr. Barboza “rude, disrespectful, and obnoxious.”

In the first, the administrator described an incident on Jan. 21, 1976, when “you failed to properly inform the dispatcher of the condition of your windshield wipers and then drove to my house with malfunctioning windshield wipers during a heavy snowstorm, endangering not only yourself but others and also town equipment … When you arrived at my house, your conduct and language was [sic] rude and bordered on the obnoxious.”

In the second, the administrator described a banquet at the Defiance Fire Station, where “your conduct and and language towards me was similarly rude, disrespectful and obnoxious. If this is the way you that you act in my presence, it is only reasonable to wonder about the manner of your conduct towards the average citizens of Bristol.”

Community relations officer

During his brief tenure as Bristol police officer, Mr. Barboza did make an effort to carve out a unique niche for himself, even prior to earning permanent status. In a “Community Relations Brief” addressed to Chief Brown and dated Oct. 15, 1975, Mr. Barboza laid out a detailed pitch for a position as a Community Relations Officer, expanded and “developed to in incompass (sic) various community organizations and businesses as well as other town agencies …”

In Mr. Barboza’s vision, this post would have a very broad scope, providing “an effective aid to the Chief of Police … eliminating the need for the chief to become tied down in trivial matters …” It could conceivably be an around-the-clock position, in Mr. Barboza’s view: “If the program is planned and managed with the idea that its goal is to reach the objectives that it has set regardless of the hours that have to be worked …”

Mr. Barboza’s pitched program would encompass elementary schools and secondary schools, and among other objectives, provide education on drugs and alcohol, bicycle and water safety, as well the development of school curriculum on law enforcement targeted to secondary school students.

It order to execute such an ambitious Community Relations post, Mr. Barboza proposed the “development and implimentation (sic) of Bristol Police Department Mobile Education Center,” a dedicated vehicle for this Community Relations officer post.

There is nothing in the file to indicate how Chief Brown responded to this proposal, if at all. According to an email from Capt. Brian Burke, “The Bristol Police Department does not currently have an officer assigned specifically as a community relations officer or have a Mobile Education Center. There is no record of such a program currently on file with the Bristol Police Department, nor does the current administration have knowledge of the history or role of this community outreach program that was proposed or even implemented under the administration of Chief Brown in 1975.”

Mr. Barboza’s tenure with the Bristol Police Department ended with his resignation on Feb. 1, 1978, to take a position as Deputy State Fire Marshal.

Surveillance of his house

His attendance records for the duration of his employment reveal a waning commitment to community policing, showing 29 sick days for 1977, up from 12 in 1976, 5 in 1975, and 6 in 1974. In apparent absence of a doctor’s note, Mr. Barboza’s fellow officers were twice dispatched to stake out his home, on alleged sick days of Jan. 1 and 7, 1978. In one report, Lieut. Clayton writes, “At approximately 7:40 p.m. we returned to Ptl. Barboza’s home and found the house still in darkness, Capt. Mancieri knocked on the door for several minutes but received no answer.

“We returned to the station and assigned Sgt. Vento to watch Ptl. Barboza’s home until he returned.”


Timeline of David Barboza’s employment with the Bristol Police Department

June 9, 1972

Anthony Carlone, Bristol’s chief of police, submitted Barboza’s name, age 17, as a candidate “of good character” who is interested in pursuing studies in law enforcement, for the Law Enforcement Summer Employment Program.

June 2, 1974

Barboza appointed as probationary patrolman.

July 30, 1974

Barboza hit 17-year-old John Cabral with nightstick.

Aug. 26, 1974

Excessive force complaint was made against Barboza.

Oct. 15, 1975

Barboza submitted letter to Chief Frank Brown proposing an expansion of the community relations officer program to include elementary and secondary schools, drug and alcohol education, bicycle and water safety programs.

Nov. 21, 1975

Barboza satisfactorily completed period as probationary officer.

Dec. 22, 1975

Barboza elevated to position as permanent patrolman.

March 9, 1976

Town Administrator Gus Nunes wrote performance review letter to Barboza, citing brutality case and recent $5,000 out of court settlement; called him rude and obnoxious.


Employee attendance record shows 29 sick days for 1977, up from 12 in 1976, 5 in 1975, and 6 in 1974.

Jan. 1, 1978

Sgt. Vento reported to Capt. Mancieri that he spent about an hour parked in Barboza’s yard after going there to see if he was home after calling in sick.

January 7, 1978

Lt. Clayton wrote a report detailing that he and Capt. Mancieri spent about an hour looking for Barboza before assigning Sgt. Vento to watch Barboza’s house until he returned.

Feb. 1, 1978

Barboza resigned to accept position as Deputy State Fire Marshal.

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