Michael Cox, 44th Commisoner of the Boston Police Department, Sworn in Monday Morning

In an unusually large ceremony held on City Hall Plaza this morning, Mayor Wu, surrounded by political, community and faith leaders as well as Boston Police Command Staff past and present, swore in Boston’s newest Top Cop, Commissioner Michael Cox. Commissioner Cox, a well-known player in the national law enforcement landscape, was announced by Wu in mid-July after a lengthy search to replace the open position following former Commissioner Whites abrupt removal.

Commissioner Cox previously held the role as Chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department and prior to that served as a member of the Boston Police for over three decades. You can read more about the Commissioners past in the article we wrote following the announcement below.

During today’s ceremony, Mayor Wu spoke about “adding more to the history that Boston is making”, and went into detail on the process and the seemingly “impossible” task of finding the perfect candidate for Commissioner. During the initial interview for the post of top cop, Wu says she “had a feeling,” when she met Commissioner Cox, and that he “embodied all the qualities that Boston was looking for in our Police Commissioner in this moment.” 

She went on to sing the praises of the new Commissioner stating, “Michael Cox is used to proving more is possible.” In a humbling moment, Wu talked about how she has grown a new level of respect, “I’ve been in this role now for just about nine months and I’ve already seen the incredible range of what our Boston Police Department and Officers are called to do.” She went on to say, “you all show up and keep showing up… and I am so grateful and proud…” 

Throughout her remarks, she continued to push the narrative of equality, stating that “our systems must see and work for everyone, and how each one of us can have an impact.” In the end, Wu finished with heartfelt emotion, introducing Commissioner Cox as “a leader who you all deserve, a leader that our city deserves, and so I am incredibly proud, grateful, and inspired at the future for this city.”

During the swearing-in, Mayor Wu broke from the traditional Oath of Office that former Commissioners had taken, choosing to add a final closing promise to act “…in service of building trust, bringing healing and promoting equity across all our communities…” Following the Oath Commissioner Cox was presented with his badge by his wife Kimberly, surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones. 

After taking the Oath, Commissioner Cox made his first public address as the newest leader of the Boston Police Department. Cox began his remarks by thanking his family, “for supporting me and allowing me to make law enforcement my life’s work regardless of the circumstances we may have gone through.” 

Commissioner Cox went on to speak about the “incredible opportunity” of being able to “come home and be able to lead this department… to come to a place where I grew up, where I was raised, where I was an officer, where I raised my family…” The Commissioner did acknowledge the difficult road ahead of him in the new position, saying, “with great opportunity comes great responsibility… and I look forward to making sure I can live up to that responsibility.” 

A continuing theme for Commissioner Cox throughout his address was the need for police integration into the community. Numerous times he spoke about how the department needed to, “come together so we can successfully change how we police.” Cox elaborated that this could only be accomplished, “through listening, through partnership, and through figuring out better ways to serve the public.” 

To the officers below him, his message was simple, “we are going to make sure every member of our department is supported and has all of the tools needed to be successful and safe, we will hold each member of the department accountable for what we ask them to do, but more importantly we will support them as they meet the community where they are as they figure out how it is they want us to police.”

Cox touched quickly on the 1995 incident that had become synonymous with his name. While working in plainclothes Cox was beaten by his fellow officers after they allegedly mistook him for a suspect, he said, “There’s been a lot of talk about the incident 27 years ago… While that incident absolutely informs who I am, it doesn’t define me. I will do all I can to make sure that no Black or brown person and any individual — no matter what their gender or race is — is the victim of any unconstitutional policing. I unfortunately have a unique perspective on this, but that perspective makes me more committed in this area.”

In his address, Commissioner Cox informed the city that he is, “quite confident that we will meet the challenge ahead of us, we are resilient and we made change happen before and we will do it again… but none of us are successful on our own… we pull each other up when we are down and we stand on the shoulders of those around us.”

In the closing of his remarks, he promised to work to ensure the Boston Police, “always police in a community friendly way.” He went on to ask for the public’s help with that promise; “everyone who loves this city- please join us in helping move the Boston Police Department forward… we ask you to join us and give us feedback… and work to serve you the way you need to be served.”

Commissioner Cox was briefly placed on administrative leave shortly after taking over as Chief of Ann Arbor due to claims that he created a hostile work environment. When asked about this incident in July, Cox cited a cultural difference coupled with some inexperience. Cox said, “​​I made some mistakes. I owned up to them and I learned from that… there was no atmosphere of hostility, just a misinterpretation and a young police chief making some mistakes.” An independent investigation found “no evidence that the Chief was behaving in such a way” as to create a hostile work environment. However, one report said “there is evidence that people feared retaliation by the Chief, and that they had a legitimate basis for that fear, whether or not that was the Chief’s intent.”

Following the closing of the ceremony, Commissioner Cox was greeted by numerous political, religious, and community players all rushing to grab a photo, shake hands or speak with Boston’s newest top cop. City Councilors Erin Murphy and Frank Baker, who many see as the only elected officials who have advocated for public safety and police officers, could be seen congratulating the Commissioner.

Other leaders in the public safety arena including Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden and Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins were seen at the ceremony. Boston EMS’s Chief James Hooley (Boston EMS does not have a commissioner as they are not considered an independent agency) and Boston Fire’s Commissioner Paul Burke both congratulated the new addition to their Boston Command Trio, posing for a rare picture with all three bosses in the same location. 

After the event, Commissioner Cox answered questions about what his plans are and what the future of the department looks like, “the list is pretty long on what we have to do but we’re going to do it,” said Cox. Promising additional transparency, he told reporters, “you’ll hear from us along the way… you’ll hear from us more so you can really understand what good policing is all about.” When asked what the number one thing that needs to change in policing is, Cox answered, “we need to listen… we need to start to have communication.” Cox elaborated, “there’s no more dialogue right now… people are angry at police in general and the reality is we need to work together.” 

Praising the officers on the force he elaborated, “the men and women who do this job are here to serve and the fact is they need encouragement, they need to hear from people in general so they can feel better about themselves and their jobs. Finally, he told the media, “we have to earn [the public’s] trust, but along the way we need to educate folks that we are human… when something bad happens someplace else in the country we shouldn’t be talking about our officers here like they did it.”

Commissioner Cox is entering the position at a pivotal moment during the Boston Police Department’s history. Critically low staffing, a growing exodus of officers leaving and retiring, increased public scrutiny, a long waging war between unions and city hall, labor complaints, and an intense calling for a modernization of leadership and command staff, the new commissioner has a long road ahead of him as head of the Boston Police Department.