Janey Fires Boston Police Commissioner White After Legal Battle

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Dennis White, in a still image from a video he recorded with his attorney. White is fighting his firing as Boston police commissioner (Courtesy Attorney Nicholas Carter)
Dennis White, in a still image from a video he recorded with his attorney. White is fighting his firing as Boston police commissioner (Courtesy Attorney Nicholas Carter)

Acting Mayor Kim Janey fired Boston police Commissioner Dennis White Monday after White lost a court battle to block his removal last month.

White had been on leave since February, shortly after he was sworn in, after decades-old domestic violence allegations surfaced against him and a city investigation reported an altercation involving a second woman.

In a news conference Monday, Janey said she was concerned both by the original allegations of violence against his ex-wife and the way White has handled the accusations.

"Instead of expressing understanding, regret, growth or contrition regarding his admitted actions about domestic violence, Dennis White has instead continued to campaign to vilify his former wife," Janey said.

Janey also said White refused to cooperate with the city's investigation into the allegations and remained a reoccurring presence at police headquarters even while he was on leave.

"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.

"Dennis White's documented conduct 20 years ago and during the course of the investigation led me to the unescapable conclusion that it is not in the best interest of the Boston police department, its employees or the citizens of Boston for him to remain as commissioner," she added.

White's attorney, Nick Carter, said in a statement White was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

"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," Carter said. "This reflects an ugly pattern in our country."

Janey said interim Commissioner Gregory Long will continue to oversee the department for now. But she also said she will announce more plans in the coming weeks for the interim position and the search for a permanent commissioner.

The acting mayor originally intended to fire White on May 14, but White asked the courts to issue an emergency injunction blocking the move. He called the firing illegal, and demanded a "trial-like, name-clearing" hearing where he could bring evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Multiple judges rejected that.

White's attorney has also said he intends to bring a civil rights claim. But Suffolk University law professor Rosanna Cavallaro said that type of lawsuit could be difficult to win, given the reasons the mayor provided for firing White.

"I don't think there's ever been any allegation that the decision was based on any what we usually look for as a protected class-  race or gender or age or sexual orientation," Cavallaro said. "There's nothing that I've heard of to date that would suggest that there would be a civil rights claim here."

Still, Cavallaro says White could pursue additional legal action to pressure the city to agree to a settlement.

"Continuing to kind of fill the front pages is the only leverage that he has at this point to try to get some kind of a settlement," Cavallaro said. "There isn't a legal case here."
In the past few weeks, White has also waged a public relations battle to clear his name.  White's attorneys released videos of White, his oldest daughter and his ex-wife's sister all disputing the allegations against him. They said that his ex-wife was the aggressor in the relationship, against White, their daughter and others.

Their oldest daughter, Tiffany White, now 39, detailed physical and verbal abuse she claims she suffered at the hands of her mother.

"Domestic violence, I take very seriously, especially when it affected my family, my daughter. So, again, this is very disheartening to me," Dennis White said in the video.

But White's ex-wife, Sybil Mason, insisted that Dennis White was the instigator. She said White became violent after she questioned him about alleged cheating.

"Did I fight Dennis back? Yes, the hell I did," she said. "Did I throw the first blow? No."

She acknowledged that she disciplined her daughter, including spanking, but said it was not abuse.

Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hastily named White to succeed outgoing police Commissioner William Gross in January. But Walsh put White on administrative leave and ordered an investigation days later, after The Boston Globe reported he had been accused of domestic violence amid a messy divorce in 1990s.

A subsequent outside investigation found witnesses corroborated some of the statements from White's ex-wife and detailed an altercation White had with a second woman, his niece.

In his video testimony, White said that Walsh called him on May 14, the day Janey was originally expected to fire him, and apologized. White recounted in the video that the former mayor said he spoke to Janey the night before and told her she didn't have the authority to fire White and that "you can't do this to this man."

White said Walsh also told him that firing him would "cost the city a lot of money," seeming to reference a potential lawsuit from White.

Both White and his predecessor, Gross, have claimed that Walsh was briefed on the domestic violence allegations against White in 2014, when White joined the Boston police department's command. Walsh has repeatedly said he was unaware of the allegations when he named White police commissioner. Former police Commissioner William Evans, who promoted White in 2014, backed up Walsh and claimed he also did not know about the allegations.

White pointed to department records, however, that show that his internal affairs records were accessed by Evans' legal advisor and then-head of internal affairs, Frank Mancini, not long before he was promoted. Mancini said he communicated that information to Evans' office.

This segment aired on June 8, 2021.


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Ally Jarmanning Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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