Mayor Marty Walsh swore in Boston’s 43rd police commissioner, Dennis White, on Monday morning, following former Commissioner William Gross’ retirement on January 29.
At the swearing-in, Walsh thanked Gross for his “leadership and his 37 years of service” in the Boston Police Department (BPD). Gross became police commissioner in 2018.
“He led the department with passion and purpose,” Walsh said of Gross. “He embodied a strong spirit of community policing. He made our neighborhoods safer and he took Boston’s national leadership to a while new level.”
Walsh acknowledged Gross’ leadership and work throughout “monumental change” and working with the city to create the “most ambitious set of police reforms in BPD’s history.”
Walsh said that Gross “leaves behind certainly an inspiring legacy, whether it was making history as Boston’s first Black commissioner, appointing the most diverse command staff in this department’s history, reducing crime, getting guns off the street, creating the first ever Bureau of Community Engagement, or serving as a role model for our men and women in other offices…”
Walsh said that Gross’ commitment to the community was evident throughout his time as police commissioner, and told Gross that he and the City of Boston “hope you enjoy a well deserved retirement. Thank you for everything that you’ve done.”
Dennis White, who is Boston’s second Black police commissioner, began his time with the department as a patrol officer in D6 in South Boston, Walsh said, and then became D2 sergeant patrol supervisor and a sergeant detective in D4 in the South End and Internal Affairs, Walsh said.
“Before he joined the command staff in 2014, he was a lieutenant and duty supervisor in District 2 in Roxbury, District 3 in Mattapan, [and] District 13 in Jamaica Plain,” Walsh said. “He served as Deputy Superintendent in the Office of Superintendent and Chief in the Bureau of Field Services Night Command. He was promoted then to chief of staff…to the rank of superintendent.”
White is also a member of the Boston Police Reform Task Force. He has served with the BPD for 32 years.
“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 and help lead the Boston Police Department into a new era.”
After he took the oath of office and was pinned by his wife Jackie, White said in his remarks that he is “humbled and honored to be appointed.” He said he will “forever appreciate” Walsh’s friendship as the mayor most likely heads off to Washington, DC soon.
“I wish you nothing but the best, Mayor,” White said.
White also addressed Commissioner Gross, wishing him “the best in your next chapter.”
He also provided an anecdote about his mother.
“Today, I am fulfilling a dream of my mother that she saw for me,” White said. He said that during his swearing-in ceremony as deputy superintendent in 2014, his mother, who was ill with lung cancer, attended the ceremony in a wheelchair and with an oxygen tank.
“She pinned my badge to me,” White said, and then his mother said, “God can take me now.”
Claiming he was his mother’s favorite child, he said that her hopes for him were to meet President Barack Obama, which he did in 2015, and to become Boston’s police commissioner.
White said he was grateful for the love and support of his family.“It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road,” he said. “I truly love you all.”
He also said that the “BPD has been tested this past year. The COVID pandemic has strained our resources with our officers working long hours in difficult situations. Still, the BPD has answered all calls to service without hesitation to our citizens.”
White told residents that he will work to bring communities together during this difficult time.
“I will continue to prioritize health and wellness efforts for our sworn and civilian officers. To the residents of Boston, many relationships between the police and the communities they serve have been strained due to COVID and the national reckoning on racial justice. As commissioner, the BPD will continue to prioritize community engagement to build trust and relationships with our citizens and community.”
He continued, “We will get through this together, but we will have to make changes,” adding that he will ensure all recommended made by the Boston Police Reform Task Force are implemented.
“I know this will not be easy, but I am confident that the BPD will get the job done,” White said. “I look forward to working closely with the members of the department, the communities, and all our partners to continue to make the BPD the best department in the country.”