Boston Police Department Commissioner William Gross, who started his law enforcement career as a beat cop at East Boston’s District A-7 station, retired from the Boston Police last Friday after 37 years on the force – perhaps signaling an interest in running for mayor of Boston.
Gross has previously said he was going to explore a possible run for mayor given the interest of many in the community, but he has yet to make an announcement.
Mayor Martin Walsh last Thursday (Jan. 28) announced the appointment of Dennis White as the 43rd Commissioner of the Boston Police Department (BPD), and the second African American to hold the role of Police Commissioner. White, who is currently a Superintendent in the department and Chief of Staff to the Commissioner, will assume the duties and responsibilities of Commissioner Gross.
“I want to thank Commissioner Gross from the bottom of my heart for his 37 years of service to the Boston Police Department and for his two and a half years leading the department as Commissioner. Throughout his decorated career, he’s always embodied the spirit of community policing that is so important to building trust with the people we serve,” said Mayor Walsh. “Anyone who knows Willie can instantly feel his love for the job and his passion for keeping communities safe. No matter the situation, his warm smile, dedication, and love for meeting people made him uniquely capable of taking on the toughest challenges.”
“As Boston’s first Black Police Commissioner, Willie reflects the great diversity of our city,” added Mayor Walsh. “We can all be proud of the legacy he’ll leave behind, from reducing major crime to helping undertake the most ambitious set of police reforms in the department’s history.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Police Commissioner, leading a department of hardworking men and women who serve this city day-in and day-out, and put the safety and well-being of our community first,” said Commissioner Gross. “They have shown time and again their unwavering commitment to our residents, rising to the occasion during moments of crisis, reaching out a helping hand to those in need, and running towards danger in the name of public safety for all. I am immensely proud of their performance under tremendous pressure. It is only after long and careful consideration that I have made the decision to retire from my role. My heart will always remain alongside my brothers and sisters of the BPD, who over the course of my 37-year career have become my village. I will continue to be one of their biggest champions as I move forward with my next chapter.”
As of Friday, January 29, 2021, Superintendent White will serve as Acting Commissioner until he is formally sworn in as Commissioner. A swearing in ceremony will be announced in the coming days.
“Superintendent White is a proven leader who is trusted and respected in the community and by his colleagues in the Boston Police Department,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m confident that Dennis will continue to advance the progress made by Commissioner Gross, including implementing community-led recommendations for police reform, while drawing on his own extensive career experience to bring fresh ideas and innovative thinking to the department.”
“The women and men of the Boston Police Department have become my extended family over the course of my three decades of service,” said White. “I want to thank Mayor Walsh for entrusting me with this incredible opportunity and the responsibility of leading our historic department. To the community and all the members of the Boston Police Department, I pledge to uphold our mission of community policing each and every day. Serving as Commissioner is the honor of a lifetime, and I will never take this sacred duty for granted.”
A member of Mayor Walsh’s Boston Police Reform Task Force, Superintendent White is a seasoned veteran of the police force, having served the community for 32 years. Prior to being promoted to Chief of Staff to Commissioner Gross and to the rank of Superintendent, White was a Deputy Superintendent in the Office of the Superintendent-in-Chief and in the Bureau of Field Services Night Command.
As Boston’s first Black police commissioner who rose through the ranks of the department, having joined as a cadet in 1983, Commissioner Gross appointed and oversaw the most qualified and diverse command staff in the department’s history. Throughout his career, he has cultivated and maintained a strong connection with the community, and has prioritized community engagement as part of his community policing model. As Commissioner, he established the first-ever Bureau of Community Engagement at BPD, which is charged with overseeing a citywide effort focused on building relationships and trust between law enforcement and residents, creating new and innovative partnerships, and promoting inclusion and diversity within the department. During Commissioner Gross’ tenure, part one crime, which includes the most serious offenses, declined.
As Police Commissioner, Gross worked to ensure that BPD lived up to the ideals of community policing. He took steps to further accountability and transparency at the department, including completing a review of Boston Police’s policies against the recommended use of force policies outlined in the “8 Can’t Wait” effort, resulting in clarified rules and the implementation of several reforms. Under his leadership, BPD has issued body-worn cameras to more than half of the department, and the program continues to expand to cover more officers.
Previous Police Commissioners Gross and Evans started as police cadets. After the cadet program was suspended in 2009 for financial reasons, Mayor Walsh reinstated the program in 2015 as a way to diversify the force and create a pipeline for Boston residents seeking a career in law enforcement. The cadet program is a two-year apprenticeship designed for Boston residents between the ages of 18-24 interested in joining the ranks of one of the most storied and professional police departments in the county.