FRAMINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS — Things could have gone much differently for Harry Wareham.
When he was 15, Wareham admitted “I was very dumb and I made a mistake.”
Wareham committed a crime and was found to be delinquent by a juvenile court judge.
But, instead of growing up to join a roster of repeat criminal offenders, Wareham changed his life around.
Wareham, who is now 43 years old, is a 16-year veteran of the Framingham Police Department with the rank of lieutenant.
“I’m not proud of the mistake I made,” said Wareham last week, “but I think it made me a better and more understanding police officer.”
Wareham, who wouldn’t detail the charges he faced at 15, now finds his juvenile record has been unsealed, coming back to haunt him 28 years later.
Recently, his license to carry a firearm when he is off duty was denied by the state firearms board because of what it read in that previously sealed record.
A change in the Criminal Offender Record Information, or CORI law, that goes into effect in May is opening juvenile crime records — even those that were sealed by the judge — to the firearms licensing board and other agencies.
Previously, those records were not revealed.
The law’s purpose is to limit how much a job applicant’s criminal history is available to employers.
“At the end of the day, this is something that shouldn’t have come up,” said Wareham’s lawyer, Michael Brennan.
“I feel like I made a mistake and I did my part, and now this is coming up all of a sudden,” said Wareham.
The lack of his firearms permit has not affected his job. Chief Steven Carl is allowing Wareham to carry a firearm “on the badge,” which means he can have a gun while on duty.
Carl said he has never allowed an officer to carry a gun “on the badge before,” but he said this is a special circumstance.
“He was given, more or a less, a second chance, and he took advantage of a judge’s wisdom who sealed the record,” said Carl. “Twenty-eight years later, the system has failed him. To take Harry off the road is a loss to this department and this community.”
Wareham’s early life wasn’t easy. He said he lived in an orphanage from the age of 2 until he was 10, when he was moved into the foster care system.