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Boston swears in new police commissioner, Gross leaves legacy on BPD

Dennis White was formally sworn in as Boston’s 43rd police commissioner Monday, after serving as acting commissioner since William Gross retired from the position Friday.

Dennis White was sworn in as the 43rd Boston Police Commissioner Monday. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Gross — who served in the Boston Police Department for 37 years and led it for two and a half — was the city’s first Black police commissioner. White, his successor, will be the second.

Speaking from City Hall Monday morning, White honored his late mother in his acceptance speech.

“[My mother] told me about a dream she had,” he said. “First, it was that I would meet President Obama, and next, that I would be the Boston Police Commissioner … In March of 2015, I had the honor of meeting and taking a picture with President Obama. So today, Feb. 1, 2021, Beverly’s dream came true.”

At the ceremony, White was introduced by Mayor Marty Walsh, who said the incoming commissioner helped shape police reforms throughout the summer.

“I am confident he will continue the Boston Police Department’s reputation as a leader in community policing and advance the department’s commitment to accountability and transparency,” Walsh said.

This summer, the Boston Police Reform Task Force released an initial report discussing recommendations for the mayor that involved expanding the body-worn camera program, enhancing the BPD’s use of force policies so they better articulate a “clear and enforceable” disciplinary code of consequences and fulfilling the task force’s recommendations without adding to the police budget.

White said relationships between the police and local communities have been hurt by COVID-19 and “the national reckoning on racial justice.”

“We will get through this together, but we will have to make changes,” White said. “It will be my duty and honor as Boston Police Commissioner to see that all the recommendations under my direction are implemented.”

At a press conference announcing his retirement, Gross said he had promised his family he would consider retirement when Walsh left office if the Senate confirms his nomination as Secretary of Labor.

“Myself and the mayor are good friends, that’s my brother,” Gross said. “When he leaves, I’m going to leave.”

He added that his resignation was also prompted by a desire to spend more time with his family. 

“I’ve missed a lot,” Gross said. “I’ve missed birthdays, I’ve missed special events, I’ve missed special moments.”

In Gross’ time in the department, he said he focused on working with his “extended family”: the residents of Boston.

The former commissioner maintained a focus on community policing and established the city’s Bureau of Community Engagement.

In his announcement speech, Gross said Bostonians should avoid the “national train of anti-police sentiment.”

“We know about reform, we know it’s needed,” he said. “But reform is for everyone, everyone should educate themselves. Especially when you use the moniker [of] community policing, that’s us working in partnership. So reforms [that] respect both sides moving forward, that’s good.”

He added that Boston has made strides in the diversity of its workforce, including the police, but there is still progress to be made.

City Council President Kim Janey tweeted her thanks to Gross and wrote he was a “trailblazer.”

“As the first person of color to serve as Police Commissioner of Boston, he has much to be proud of in his 37 years of service,” Janey wrote in a photo on Twitter. “I thank Commissioner Gross for his dedication to our city and wish him health and happiness in his retirement.”

In another tweet, City Councilor Michelle Wu wished Gross “a fulfilling retirement.”

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