At approximately 03:15 Monday afternoon, the City of Boston’s Acting Mayor, Kim Janey, announced that she had made the decision to terminate current Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White earlier this morning following the hearing and drawn out legal battle over whether or not the Acting Mayor could in fact make such a decision. Using the results of the investigation started under mayor Walsh, Janey cited the multiple allegations of inappropriate conduct – ranging from domestic abuse to sexual violence as justification for the termination of Boston’s Top Cop.
The decision to remove Dennis White was not unexpected, with Janey openly advocating for his termination even prior to the completion of the report. Critics we spoke to within the department anticipated today’s move after claiming that it had been actually decided weeks ago for politically driven purposes.
The Acting Mayor went on to leave a scathing review of White’s time, both as PC and throughout the investigation. Janey labeled him a liar, dismissing his claims that the entire process was a race driven manhunt. She claimed he was uncooperative, and that he “fostered a climate of intimidation” and a “Blue Wall of Silence”, a claim that was not echoed by members of the Police Department that we spoke with.
Surprisingly, the removal of White was not the biggest announcement made. Instead of appointing the long favored Nora Baston to the position, Janey seemed to backtrack, making a vague insinuation that an expanded search for the position would take place with no set deadline. When pushed by reporters on why Baston was not appointed, a clearly irked Janey curtly stated that it had never been confirmed – a claim that was quickly shot down by the reporter after citing the multiple sources and leaks, some of which were from her office. Baston was a top contender for the position with support from reform and pro police groups. Seen as a middle ground between old and new, her community connections and time served as a street cop truly embodied what it meant to be a leader. Experts we spoke to stated they believed Janey may have been told by legal advisors that she could not appoint a new permanent PC as Acting Mayor and this move was a tactic to say face.
In what Janey claimed as a step towards transparency and justice, she announced that her office would be “implementing several measures to reimagine the future of policing in our city” before she set the stage for a national search for a permanent commissioner to be named towards the end of the year. This move which is already drawing heavy criticism, is being dubbed a copout, a strategy for the unelected mayor to skate by without truly picking a side before election season. With tensions high and political pressure at peak, it didn’t come as a surprise to many. The damage that could be done to Janey’s political career could be catastrophic should she pick the wrong replacement, and with her City Council seat up for grabs, the stakes are even higher.
Along with these two major announcements, she also announced that major reforms were coming to the department. First up was the implementation of new policy surrounding background checks for employees, which is something that the department confirmed has always been a step in the hiring process as there is an entire unit dedicated to these types of investigations. She then went on to insinuate that there was fear among residents regarding the integrity of members of the department, a statement that numerous officers and union representatives we spoke to found not only offensive but also without base. One department member, who asked to remain anonymous for fears of retaliation by City Hall, stated, “It just shows the climate that the men and woman of BPD operate under..one where politicians, this one who wasn’t even elected Mayor, openly do not support public safety and instead continue to paint the rank and file with a broad brush of unjustified attacks. It’s dangerous and wrong. Boston deserves better.”
The second piece of reform that the Acting Mayor touted as “first time” measures, was a policy for the Boston Police Department as it relates to domestic violence by members of the force, a Policy that has existed for years without issue and can be read here. Rule 327A clearly and easily outlines how Officers should handle calls for Domestic Violence when a Department member is involved; instructing officers to request supervisors, notify investigators, and comply with the requirements of MGL c. 209A – the law that already prescribes the correct actions to be taken. This announcement the Acting Mayor showed her lack of knowledge of Police Operations, and instead simply chose to fix something that is in-fact already in working existence for nothing more than a political show. Janey claims to be a strong supporter of victims of domestic violence, specifically those of color; however, she has also recently been criticized for infamously naming a street after the prolific domestic abuser Bobby Brown.
The real fireworks did not start until the Q&A portion of the press conference. The first question, a softball from the Globe, was about the practical nature of White’s employment status, something a simple Google search could have clarified. From there it began to heat up, with WBZ asking something we touched on earlier about why Nora Baston was not appointed and the reason behind the change in heart. This question seemed to change the mood in the room with other reporters eagerly listening. The Acting Mayor became clearly agitated being asked legitimate questions. She went a round about way of dodging the Baston inquiry, stating more would be announced later in the week, with Chief Long continuing his duel role for the time being. A follow-up from another reporter was shut down by Janey, stating that “this is the news of the day”, referring to the termination of White. The last question, another softball from the back of the room, asked Janey to talk to the people of Boston, something that she had already done throughout the press conference.
Her handlers ended the conference before she could be pressed further, as reporters pled with the Acting Mayor to clarify when the Department would have a leader, who it would be, and why she was seemingly passing the buck of the selection process on until after the next election. Other members of the press, including our own reporter, could be heard expressing their frustration at Janey and her team only answering one hard question before running out on a room leaving more confusion than before the presser had started. With covid finally over it will be interesting to see if the Acting Mayor will be forced to come out of hiding and face the public and press’s questions on the safety of their City or if she will continue to skate by with our accountability for her inaction.
Experts we spoke to said they were saddened, but not surprised, that Janey refused to name a commissioner. Rumors have swirled that Nora Baston had passed on the job when asked and that no other candidates would accept the appointment from the embattled mayor. The termination of White shocked no one, however leaving one of the largest, top 20, police departments in the county without a leader was what 22-year-veteran of the force called, “A pathetic, spineless, copout that only hurts the City more”. Even the usually supportive Globe allowed one of their less than popular columnists to write about Janey’s poor management of the situation, seemingly a case of them happily eating their own.