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Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Monday she fired Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White, who had been on administrative leave since February as a city-hired attorney investigated decades-old domestic violence allegations against him.
Janey, speaking at a City Hall press conference, said she reached the decision to terminate White’s employment after considering the findings of the independent review along with testimony provided during a private hearing on June 1.
Janey informed White of her decision earlier on Monday, she said. The termination is effective immediately.
“Dennis White has repeatedly asserted that the domestic violence allegations against him are false, but he stated in his hearing and during the investigation that he has hit and pushed members of his household,” Janey said. “The allegations and evidence of this behavior raised serious questions about his fitness to lead the Boston Police Department, and Dennis White’s actions in recent weeks have done even more to erode public trust in his judgment and ability to lead.”
In terminating White, Janey vowed to bring forth departmental reforms and announced her administration is setting the stage for a nationwide search for his successor “to be named toward the end of the year.”
Specifically, Janey pledged to institute new department policies requiring all candidates for leadership positions to undergo background checks; to revisit and revamp the force’s 15-year-old domestic violence policy; and to create a new policy on sexual assault.
Janey said she will also form a committee of residents, public safety advocates, and law enforcement professionals to lead a process to hear from residents about what they want to see in police department leadership.
Nicholas Carter, White’s attorney, issued a statement after Monday’s announcement expressing that he is “deeply disappointed” by the decision, according to The Boston Globe.
“He is a Black man, falsely accused of crimes, not given a fair trial or hearing, and then convicted, or terminated which is the equivalent here. This reflects an ugly pattern in our country,” Carter wrote. “In a rush to judgment, the Acting Mayor got this one wrong and destroyed Dennis White in the process.”
White plans to file a civil rights claim to recover his personal losses and “to send a message that this kind of unlawful and harmful treatment must not be allowed to happen again to anyone,” Carter said.
Appointed commissioner in February by then-Mayor Marty Walsh, White, 59, was placed on leave only days later after a Globe report raised questions about allegations from 1999 that White pushed and threatened to shoot his then-wife.
White was never charged with a crime and denied specific allegations, although his attorney conceded in divorce filings that “there were incidents of fighting” between the two that sometimes “escalated to some physical contact.”
Walsh tapped attorney Tamsin Kaplan to conduct an outside investigation into the allegations. The probe yielded another assault allegation from 1993, in which a neighbor said they saw White slap his niece-in-law after she kicked him in an argument.
White admitted to investigators he slapped her, although the unidentified woman said it was a punch. Both parties filed assault charges against one another that were ultimately dismissed.
Witnesses told Kaplan that White subjected his ex-wife to physical and mental abuse, including “choking her, throwing a television at her, pushing her and stomping on her legs when she crawled under the bed, pushing her face onto the stove and trying to turn it on, and trying to physically throw her or pull her out of the house,” according to the report.
White was steadfast in denying the claims against him, but told Kaplan there was “physical abuse in the relationship” that was limited to pushing, initiated by both he and his wife.
He ultimately mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge in an attempt to block Janey from firing him. An appeals court paved the way in late May for Janey to continue the process and conduct a private hearing about his employment, which officials held last week.
According to White’s written testimony provided to the Globe, White said he is the victim of false accusations. Under oath, he said his then-wife was the aggressor.
“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 Wednesday’s termination hearing, according to a written transcript of his remarks provided by his legal team. “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.”
“All the abuse was broomed under … as if it didn’t happen,” Mason told WBUR. “I have scars proving it did happen.”
Janey made clear since the release of the independent report last month she wanted the city to “move in a different direction” from White.
But in her remarks Monday, Janey suggested White’s recent behavior in going on the offensive against his ex-wife also played a role in her decision to end his tenure.
“Instead of expressing understanding, regret, growth, or contrition regarding his admitted actions about domestic violence, Dennis White instead has continued to campaign to vilify his former wife,” Janey said.
She also highlighted White’s statement regarding the racial undertones of the situation he found himself in.
“The disparate treatment of Black people in our country is a genuine concern,” Janey said. “But let’s be clear: Racism is a burden carried by both men and women of color, and I will not turn a blind eye to domestic violence against Black women, or any woman for that matter, in the Boston Police Department or anywhere else.”
Furthermore, Janey asserted, White failed to “fully cooperate” during the investigation and was a recurring presence at the department’s headquarters while he was on leave. At best, his presence merely confused officers, and at worst, “fostered a climate of intimidation,” she said.
“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 said.
In the coming weeks, Janey will provide more information about plans for an interim commissioner, she said.
Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long has helmed the department since White was placed on leave.
Janey said Monday marked a “new day” for the city and re-emphasized ongoing efforts to reform the police force to be more accountable and transparent.
“While more challenges certainly lie ahead, we are moving Boston forward toward a more just and more equitable future,” she said.
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