The top cop of America’s oldest police department is out of a job after allegations surfaced that he repeatedly threatened and brutalized his wife, including throwing a TV at her, choking her, and threatening her with a gun.
Boston Mayor Kim Janey officially fired police commissioner Dennis White on Monday, after an independent investigation into the allegations.
“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,” Janey said during a press conference Monday.
White has repeatedly claimed that the allegations are false, but he admitted during the city’s investigation that he’s hit and pushed members of his household before. Janey said during Monday’s press conference that White also refused to fully cooperate with the city’s investigation.
“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 Monday.
The former commissioner had been a member of the Boston Police Department for 32 years and was appointed by former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh February 1. Just two days after his appointment, however, Walsh placed White on administrative leave following the Boston Globe report about the allegations.
“These disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been at the forefront,” Walsh admitted to the outlet following White’s removal from the position. An investigative attorney was hired to vet the commissioner just days later.
Details of White’s alleged actions against his ex-wife are particularly disturbing, according to four witnesses who provided information on the domestic assaults at the time. The Boston Globe reported earlier this year that White repeatedly threatened and brutalized her during their relationship, stepping on her face, burning her hair, and attempting to put her face on a hot stove, according to the witnesses.
“If anything happens to me, it would be Dennis.”
The abuse was so horrid that his ex-wife kept a diary of the abuses in case things turned deadly. At one point in the diary, she states plainly, “If anything happens to me, it would be Dennis.”
White was never charged for the alleged assault nor were any internal investigations opened into the matter, despite the incidents being reported to the Boston Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit by his ex-wife on more than one occasion.
But in May 1999, a judge issued a restraining order ordering the cop to leave his home, and to keep away from his wife and children, according to the outlet. The order also asked White to surrender his service weapon. Only then was an investigation opened, according to the Globe, though the city’s investigator says the department has no record of these files today.
During the investigation, a second allegation against White also surfaced. In 1993, White allegedly punched his niece before throwing her down a flight of stairs and calling her a “whore.” White says he did hit her with an open hand, he denies throwing her down the stairs or exchanging punches with her.
At least 21 people were contacted to give the city’s investigator testimony about the alleged abuse. Only seven of them responded.
White’s attorney Nicolas Carter defended his client in a statement to VICE News.
“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.”
Carter said the investigation into his client was biased and ignored witness testimony from one of his daughters at the time of the 1999 incident where she said the allegations against her father were false. White has plans to file a civil rights claim against the city to recover his own losses, according to the attorney.
Janey said Monday that she plans to start a national search for White’s predecessor later this year. Janey also announced plans to better vet all candidates for BPD leadership roles moving forward, and will strengthen the department’s policies on domestic violence.
“The current policy is more than 15 years old,” she said. “It is time to update these rules to reflect what social science research has shown about domestic violence, particularly the challenges faced by women of color and those abused by police officers.”