Acting Mayor Kim Janey said today it's time to move past the cloud over Dennis White and name a different person as commissioner, but that she can't because White has sued to block her decision to un-appoint him.
In a City Hall press conference, Janey said an independent investigation into White's alleged domestic-violence incident in the 1990s revealed a far more pervasive problem at BPD: "A culture of fear and silence within the Boston Police Department," the so-called "Blue Wall of Silence" that is willing to sweep problems under the rug.
Sworn police officers refused to speak to investigators, frustrating efforts to uncover the truth. What is often referred to as a blue wall of silence was confirmed by one retired officer who said he received five phone calls directing him not to cooperate with this investigation. Other officers were intimidated into silence, for fear of retaliation.
She said she talked to White, who remains on administrative leave, this morning and told him it was time to move on. "He did not agree" and his lawyer moved in court to block any hearing on whether to appoint somebody else to replace William Gross, who resigned as commissioner in January.
Although numerous press accounts, based on discussions with other city officials and sources within BPD, said Janey would name Supt. Nora Baston as the new commissioner, "I did not name who his successor would be," Janey said.
She said she has asked Shumeane Benford, Boston chief of emergency management, and Rahsaan Hall, director of director of the racial-justice program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, to assemble a task force to develop new policies for appointments to BPD command positions to ensure the department reflect's the city's values, especially when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault. All future appointments, she said, will have to be "extensively vetted" to ensure the city does not wind up with abusers in its top ranks.
Going forward, all candidates for BPD leadership, whether internal or external, will be subject to vetting and background checks. The residents of Boston must have confidence that the officers charged with enforcing our laws are themselves people of integrity.
We will also work to strengthen the BPD domestic violence policy. The current policy is more than 15 years old. It is time to update these rules to reflect what social science research has shown about domestic violence, particularly the challenges faced by women of color and those abused by police officers.
For the first time, we will propose a sexual assault policy to govern our police force. We must have practices and procedures that protect victims from police intimidation and take into account the unique sensitivity of sexual violence.
In his lawsuit, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, White said the domestic-violence allegation is false and that the entire outside report, which he claims he got a copy of only today is bad and wrong and legally horrible.
The City hired an outside investigator to conduct the investigation. The investigation was suspect in its purpose and in how it unfolded procedurally. On February 24, it was cancelled, but then on March 1 it was resumed. ... No explanation was given. The investigation was biased. Clear evidence of that bias emerged during the investigation. The final report, which was delivered to Commissioner White only two hours ago, is also based on hearsay. Accordingly, the result is utterly unreliable and inadmissible.
The delay in providing the investigator’s report was unlawful and further evidence of a procedurally deficient process, which amounts to an ambush of Commissioner White. The report was provided to the City on or about Thursday, April 29, 2021. The report constitutes a personnel record on which the City is now relying to make its termination decision. See M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 52C. As a result, Commissioner White had a right to receive a copy within 5 business days. Despite his immediate and repeated written requests for a copy of the report, Janey and the City refused to provide it.
He said Janey called him at 10 this morning to inform him she'd be holding a hearing to end his two-day career as commissioner at 3 p.m. today.
Janey’s actions violate the Removal Statute. First, she has not provided due and meaningful notice. Second, the Statute does not permit her to hold a hearing as the presiding prosecutor, judge and jury. The Statute clearly contemplates and requires a judicial hearing that would provide independence and fairness. A hearing where the “judge” has made up her mind beforehand is no hearing.
His suit asks a judge to block Janey's action at least until after his suit is decided in court. A hearing on his request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order was set for 10 p.m. on May 20.
Redacted copy of report on White allegation (4.3M PDF).
White's complaint (2.9M PDF).
White's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (22k PDF).