Despite a promise of transparency and accountability, Acting Mayor Kim Janey has been anything but either on the status of the search for Boston’s next police commissioner after the termination of Dennis White. Janey fired White on June 7 and said she promised to launch a “national search” for a permanent commissioner “to be named toward the end of the year.”
Our team reached out to Janey’s office on August 25 to inquire about what progress the acting mayor has made in selecting the next commissioner, such as forming a search committee or contracting with an outside company to assist with the search.
Within an hour of our inquiry, the press office acknowledged receipt of our email and asked for our deadline. We told them our deadline was noon on August 26. August 26 came and went with no response. We followed up on August 27. That email also went unanswered. We followed up again on August 30. More than four hours later, we received this response:
“Mayor Janey will not make a permanent Boston Police Commissioner appointment before the November election. She supports a thorough and engaging community process to guide the search for a new Commissioner and is grateful to Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long for his ongoing service as both Chief of Police and Acting Commissioner.
The Mayor and City of Boston continue to prioritize public safety. The City’s 2021 Summer Safety Plan is a cross-departmental effort that helps ensure both violence prevention and intervention, as well as justice and healing when violence occurs. The Mayor appreciates the work of Boston Police Department officers who help keep our neighborhoods safe.”
The statement didn’t answer our questions. We immediately followed up with Janey’s press office to confirm if the acting mayor has taken any specific actions over the course of the last three months to hire a new commissioner. We still don’t know as our questions have gone unanswered.
The ambiguous statement from Janey’s press office indicates she still plans to name a new police commissioner, but if she’s not the next elected mayor, the search process for the city’s next top will likely start over again. The other four mayoral candidates want whoever the people of Boston elect on November 2 to oversee the search and hiring process from start to finish.
City Councilor Michelle Wu called a national search for a police commissioner without an elected mayor “a charade.” Wu tweeted immediately after Janey’s announcement earlier this summer, “This is one of the most important leadership posts in the city, especially in a moment of urgency to deliver deep reforms [and] build trust,” “Boston’s next elected mayor should oversee a comprehensive, community-informed process with clear timelines to attract [and] vet top talent nationally,” Wu added in another tweet. “This acting administration should not use City resources on a search before the general election.”
City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who is notoriously anti-police, agrees with Wu, saying the interim commissioner should lead the department until the next elected mayor can conduct a transparent, nationwide search that engages community members. Campbell wants a search process similar to the one used to hire the city’s superintendent of schools.
City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who picked up an endorsement from former commissioner William Gross, also wants the newly elected mayor to pick Boston’s next top cop. “If elected, Annissa will collaborate with community stakeholders throughout the search process and ensure that a diverse group of residents, their experiences, and expectations are heard,” her campaign told Live Boston 617, “She knows it’s critical that the hiring team, just like our police department, reflects all of Boston.”
John Barros, Boston’s former city economic development chief, echoed the three city councilors running for mayor. “There must be a well-defined process that is straightforward and transparent so the public, applicants, and the rank-and-file members of the Boston Police Department are confident that the search is fair and comprehensive,” Barros told Live Boston 617.
For now, Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long will continue to serve as the department’s interim commissioner. He’s been doing so since White was placed on leave in February. The Boston Police Department will likely go several more months without a permanent police commissioner, but despite the apparent lack of leadership at City Hall, more than 2,000 officers will continue to serve and protect one of the largest cities in America.