Federal judge rules against former Boston police commissioner's discrimination claims

Dennis White after he was sworn in as commissioner in February.
Dennis White after he was sworn in as commissioner in February. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

A federal judge has ruled against several of the claims made by former Boston police Commissioner Dennis White in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

Judge Leo Sorokin's ruling found that White failed to prove that his firing by former Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey was discriminatory.

"The Court finds that White has not alleged facts that would plausibly support an inference that Janey terminated White because of his race or his gender," Sorokin's ruling said.

White was accused in 1999 of threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer. He was also accused of hitting a 19-year-old woman in another incident in 1993. White has denied any wrongdoing.

White's suit alleged racial and gender discrimination after Janey fired him last year when the decades-old domestic abuse allegations against him surfaced. He alleged that white commissioners were treated differently and he pointed to statements Janey made at the time of his firing, when she said "I will not turn a blind eye to domestic violence against Black women, or any women, for that matter."

For a the discrimination claims to proceed legally, Sorokin ruled that White had to demonstrate that other "similarly situated" individuals were treated differently.

Sorokin's ruling also said that nothing in White's complaint "remotely suggests a direct expression of racial animus by anyone acting on behalf of the City."

"Neither of White’s proposed Equal Protection claims plausibly alleges that any similarly situated individual of another race or gender was treated differently in roughly equivalent circumstances," the ruling said.

Sorokin did give White two more weeks to further explain why he should not dismiss White's allegations that his constitutional due process rights were violated because he was not given an adequate chance to rebut the accusations in a public name-clearing hearing.

Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appointed White to the job in February 2021 after the abrupt departure of former Commissioner William Gross. White served as commissioner for only two days before he was removed from the post. Janey had an independent investigator review the allegations and formally fired White in June. Gregory Long has served as acting commissioner ever since.

Mayor Michelle Wu has begun a search for a permanent commissioner.


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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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