Boston police commissioner ousted over domestic abuse claims

FILE - This undated photo provided by the City of Boston on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 shows Dennis White, who Mayor Marty Walsh appointed as the 43rd Commissioner of the Boston Police Department. On Monday, June 7, White was fired following a bitter battle to keep his job after decades-old domestic violence accusations came to light. (City of Boston via AP, File) (Uncredited, City of Boston)

Boston's police commissioner was fired Monday following a bitter battle to keep his job after decades-old domestic violence accusations came to light.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Dennis White's removal as the city's top cop, four months after White was placed on leave over the allegations just days into his new job.

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Janey said White failed to fully cooperate with the city's investigation into the claims and was a “reoccurring presence” at police headquarters while on leave, creating confusion for officers and fostering "a climate of intimidation" within the force.

“It is clear that Dennis White's return as commissioner would send a chilling message to victims of domestic violence in our city and reinforce a culture of fear and a blue wall of silence in our police department," Janey told reporters.

There will be a national search for White's replacement, the acting mayor said.

White had tried to go to court to block his firing, calling the allegations false and saying the mayor has no cause to terminate him. During a hearing held last week, White told Janey: “I am innocent and I ask that you not convict me.”

White's attorney slammed Janey's decision and signaled the former commissioner's litigation against the city will continue. White plans to bring civil rights claims against the city to “recover for his own losses and to send a message that this kind of unlawful and harmful treatment must not be allowed to happen again to anyone," attorney Nick Carter said in an emailed statement.

“In a rush to judgment, the Acting Mayor got this one wrong and destroyed Dennis White in the process,” Carter said.

White — a 32-year veteran of the department who replaced William Gross, the city's first Black police commissioner — was suspended after The Boston Globe raised questions about allegations found in court documents from 1999 that White pushed and threatened to shoot his then-wife, a fellow police officer.

An investigative report released by the city last month said witnesses alleged that White’s ex-wife was subjected to “physical and mental abuse.” Among the allegations included in the report is that White burned her hair, put her face to a stove and threw a television at her. A judge issued a restraining order against White in 1999, ordering him to stay away from his wife and children and surrender his service weapon.

The city’s report said White was also involved in what he described as a “heated fisticuffs” with a young woman in 1993. White admitted striking her with a full swing of his arm and open hand, but says he was acting in self-defense, the report said.

White has vehemently denied ever engaging in domestic violence, and accused his ex-wife of lying to get a financial advantage in their divorce.

“I am a Black man, who has been accused falsely of crimes, I have not yet been given a fair trial, and I’m on the brink of being convicted, or terminated which is the equivalent here,” White said during his termination hearing, according to a statement provided by his lawyer. “As you know, that is a pattern that has been repeated in this country for centuries. I believe it will be bad for Boston if that pattern is repeated here with me," he said.

White, who served as Gross' chief of staff, was swiftly chosen to lead the department by then-Mayor Marty Walsh. At the time, Walsh called White a “proven leader who is trusted and respected in the community.” Walsh has insisted that he had no prior knowledge of the accusations and would never have picked White if he did.

But Gross said in an affidavit filed in court that Walsh, now secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, was briefed on White's internal affairs history when White was promoted to the department's command staff in 2014, and therefore was aware of the allegations before picking him as police commissioner.

White also said in a video released by his lawyer that he told Walsh about the restraining order against him over “false allegations." White said that Walsh "was very sympathetic to what was going on with me as I was about his past and how we had overcome some hurdles in our lives to move on.”