BOSTON — Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was aware of decades-old domestic violence allegations against the city’s now embattled top cop before picking him to lead the department, the police commissioner’s predecessor told a court this week.
The statement came in a case brought by Dennis White, who is urging a court to block the city from firing him as police commissioner after placing him on leave in February. A judge heard arguments in the case on Thursday but didn’t immediately issue a ruling.
Walsh, now secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, denies having any knowledge of the allegations before picking White for the top job in January. Walsh said in an emailed statement this week that neither the allegations nor White’s internal affairs files were shared with him in 2014 when White was being considered for promotion to the police force’s command staff, or at any other time.
“Had I known, I would not have chosen him for police commissioner or any other role,” Walsh said.
White filed a motion seeking to block the city from firing him on Friday after he says acting Mayor Kim Janey informed him that morning that she intends to remove him.
White’s lawyer told the judge on Thursday that the city has no cause to terminate him. The lawyer called the city’s release of an outside investigative report detailing the allegations both inappropriate and ruinous to White’s reputation.
“Mayor Walsh appointed him with knowledge of these two incidents and decided they were not reason not to appoint Dennis White as commissioner,” White’s attorney, Nick Carter, said during the hearing held via videoconference. “The city cannot hire him knowing something and then fire him for things they knew about him,” Carter said.
A lawyer for the city urged the judge to deny White’s bid, saying “this is not a difficult case.”
“The people of Boston and the Boston Police Department deserve leadership that shares our goal of safety, healing, and justice. We look forward to the court’s ruling,” Janey said in an emailed statement after the hearing.
Former Police Commissioner William Gross, who became the city’s first Black top cop in 2018, said in an affidavit filed with the court that the mayor must approve any candidate to the force’s command staff. Gross said that the 2014 candidates for promotion — including White — were presented to Walsh, and he was briefed on each candidate and their internal affairs history.
“There is no way anyone is brought onto the Command Staff without such a briefing to the Mayor and approval by the Mayor. The city, including Mayor Walsh, was aware no later than January 2014 of White’s (internal affairs) record,” Gross wrote in the filing.
White was placed on leave in February after The Boston Globe raised questions about allegations found in court documents that White pushed and threatened to shoot his then wife, a fellow police officer.
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 newspaper reported.
The report released by the city 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.
The 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 denies abusing his ex-wife or ever threatening to shoot her. In an affidavit filed in court this week, White alleges that “she was looking for a financial advantage in the divorce and she got it.”
“I believe I am entitled to a hearing before this Court where I can present evidence, including witnesses, and can confront and cross-examine any witnesses against me in order to challenge my termination and to restore my reputation,” White wrote. “Unless I am allowed such a hearing, my reputation and ability to work in my profession will be irreparably destroyed.”