William Gross retires as Boston Police Commissioner after 37 years on the force

BOSTON — After 37 years, William Gross is signing off for the last time as retired police commissioner and not a Boston mayoral candidate.

”No, I’m a police officer. I’m not a politician. But, it was an honor to be even selected for that position,” said Gross.

Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes spoke with Gross on his last day.

>> BPD Commissioner Gross to retire; Walsh names replacement

Crystal: “37 years, that’s a lot of police work. Is there a case that really sticks with you?”

Gross: ”In the 90s? 1990 to 94, 40 to 60 teenagers being killed every year. Had to talk to several mothers. And they’re looking you in the eye saying ‘Is my baby alive?’ and you know they’re dead. Then, your brothers and sisters that died in law enforcement. DJ Simmons, he fought. He and my brothers and sisters in law enforcement fought those coward terrorists. It was tough that day at BMC, seeing him in the emergency room and waiting for his chest to raise and fall, and it didn’t happen. That rich history. How does that happen? If I did it, so can you. But, you can’t do that without the village help raising you.“

Under Gross, the department established the Bureau of Community Engagement, with the aim at building trust between citizens and law enforcement. He conducted a departmental review of policies for police engagement after protests over this summer. And more than half of the police force have received body cameras.

But Gross faced widespread criticism for issues from lack of transparency on the department to lack of diversity on the force.

Gross says every institution should face accountability.

Crystal: “Where do you see the state of police and community relations, given that we had a year of civil unrest, calls for police reform, things like that?”

Gross: ”Civilians have died. Police have died. A nation at odds. Look at the attack on the Capitol. That’s disrespectful and disgraceful. Reform is for everyone.“

Gross will be succeeded by Dennis White as the city’s 43rd police commissioner and second black commissioner. Gross’ advice to White is to keep being yourself and a quote from a Tuskegee Airmen, the subject of his vast art collection he plans to give out to the community.

”A quote from a Tuskegee airman, Louis D. Saunders that rose to the ranks of deputy when our department wasn’t so friendly, people don’t work for you, they work with you.“

>> Boston’s changing leadership could bring nearly 200-year pattern to end