Legal challenge blocks leadership change at Boston Police Department

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Kim Janey announced on Friday that the future of who will head the Boston Police Department is now a legal matter. In a press conference held late Friday afternoon, Janey spoke on the investigation of Dennis White, who succeeded Boston Police Commissioner William Gross in the role after Gross retired in February 2021.

White was placed on leave days after being sworn in as commissioner due to past allegations of domestic violence.

“This investigation of Dennis White reveals a flawed process and a misguided department culture,” Janey said Friday. “Dennis White’s admitted behavior does not reflect our values. It is clear from the report that we have to move in a different direction.”

Sources told Boston 25 News that Boston Police Superintendent Nora Baston was set to be named the next commissioner of the Boston Police Department. However, an impending legal battle has thrown that potential change into flux. Baston is currently the superintendent and chief of Boston Police’s Bureau of Community Engagement. She would become the second female commissioner in BPD history.

“After reviewing the findings of this investigation, I informed Dennis White I would hold a hearing, in accordance with the statute. His attorney has filed papers in court to stop this process,” Janey said.

“The future leadership of the Boston Police Department is an urgent matter, as we move our city forward. But, I ask for our city’s patience as we await the court’s ruling.”

Boston 25 News has obtained those court filings, which can be seen at the bottom of this story page.

Dennis White’s attorney, Nick Carter, gave the following statement to Boston 25 News shortly after the announcement by Janey:

Acting Mayor Janey has notified Commissioner White that she intends to terminate him and promote Superintendent Nora Baston to Commissioner. Commissioner Dennis White doesn’t oppose Nora Baston and applauds her success. In fact, he has been one of her main mentors and supporters and was instrumental in her promotion to Superintendent. However, the decision today is wrong. There is already a Boston Police Commissioner, Dennis White. Acting Mayor Janey does not have the power to remove him. Any removal would require a hearing and cause, and there is no cause to remove him. Acting Mayor Janey says that she is conducting a “hearing” this afternoon. But a hearing where the decision has already been made is no hearing. Commissioner White, a Black man and only the second Black police commissioner in Boston’s history, is being treated very badly and in violation of the law. We have filed suit in Court to enjoin Acting Mayor Janey and the City from their unlawful action.

—  Nick Carter of Todd & Weld, attorney for Dennis White

According to other court paperwork obtained by Boston 25 News, White’s domestic violence allegations come from a woman that was filed in 1999. She accused White of threatening her and saying he wanted to shoot her.

“These disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been at the forefront,” former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in February of the White allegations. “Upon learning of these serious allegations, I immediately acted, placing the Commissioner on administrative leave, while corporation counsel engages outside counsel to conduct a full and impartial investigation.”

Documents also show White’s teenage daughter accused White of telling her not to startle him, and White allegedly told the girl: “I sleep with a gun under my pillow.”

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