Mayor Janey's remarks as prepared for Friday, May 14, 2021
Please note, a redacted version of Attorney Kaplan’s report can be found here.
Good afternoon. When I was sworn-in as Mayor, I pledged to bring transparency and accountability to City Hall. I also promised to make space for those who felt unheard in our city. Those commitments to the people of Boston have guided my decision to release the findings of the investigation into Commissioner Dennis White.
Dennis White was installed as commissioner by the previous administration one business day after his friend and previous Commissioner William Gross announced his retirement. As quickly as he arrived, Commissioner White was placed on administrative leave, after reports of a domestic violence restraining order issued against him became public.
An independent investigation into the allegations against Dennis White was recently completed. In addition to the facts of his case, the investigation revealed a culture of fear and silence within the Boston Police Department.
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.
This investigation of Dennis White reveals a flawed process and a misguided department culture. 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.
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.
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.
As Mayor, I am committed to leading positive change and systemic reforms to bring overdue transparency and accountability to policing in Boston.
The time has come for us to turn away from the mistakes of the past and move toward a more just and equitable Boston. I am implementing several measures to reimagine the future of policing in our city.
I have asked Shumeane Benford, Boston’s Chief of Emergency Management and Rev. Rahsaan Hall to assemble a committee to set the stage for the future of the Boston Police Department and realize our vision for safety, healing, and justice.
The committee will be composed of community residents, public safety advocates, and law enforcement professionals who will lead a community engagement process to define what Boston residents seek from leadership within our police force.
To advance this effort, I am addressing policies that govern the Boston Police Department, starting with background checks. 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.
The Boston Police Department will require steady leadership as we move forward.
I am grateful for Greg Long, who has graciously performed double duty as both Chief of Police and Acting Commissioner. I want to thank Chief Long, and his family, for their continued service to our city.
All of these changes, taken together with ongoing reforms, such as a mental health response pilot and the new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, begin a new chapter for the Boston Police Department and for our city.
While more challenges certainly lie ahead, we are moving Boston forward toward a more just and equitable future.