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While Touring Boston Neighborhoods, New Police Commissioner Says He's Open To Change

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Boston Police Commissioner William Gross participates in National Night Out in Boston's Brighton neighborhood.
Meredith Nierman

Just hours after being sworn in as Boston's first African-American police commissioner, William Gross found himself in Brighton, meeting residents and taking photos.

Gross and Mayor Marty Walsh were taking part in the city's 35th annual National Night Out, an event that celebrates community-police relations. Brighton Common — where a dressed-down Gross, in a maroon tails-out Cuban Guayabera shirt, was greeted enthusiastically by locals and more than a few selfie requests — was just the first stop for the pair.

As he and Mayor Walsh discussed issues facing the city and its police force, Gross said he's also open to change.

"You can ask the mayor," Gross said. "We never rest on our laurels, so if we can find something bigger and better to enhance community policing we will. But it starts with input from the community. We can't come in like a dictatorship. We need your input."

Earlier in the day, Gross was sworn into his office during a ceremony at Morningstar Baptist church, his mother's church, in Mattapan. During the ceremony, he spoke of his mother's sacrifices in raising him as a single mom and acknowledged the historical significance of his inauguration, giving a special nod to the generations that came before him.

"The seniors in this room of all colors all ethnicities through your struggles and strife for justice and equality for everybody in this city you paved the way so I could be here, so thank you," Gross said.

Gross also paid tribute to the 2000 officers who now serve under him.

Many of those officers were on hand for the two-day National Night Out celebration, which includes crimefighter of the year awards given out by each local police district.

In Brighton, Bernadette Brewer got one of those awards. She runs a local nonprofit and says their events like outdoor movie nights with the police, show a positive side of the neighborhood.

"It helps people understand that there's always a place where you can feel safe walking through your community and having fun," Brewer said.

Brighton Sergeant Shawn Burns says he enjoyed giving a crimefighter award to the Sisters of St. Joseph's and their free literacy program for immigrants.

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Boston's new police commissioner William Gross presents a crimefighter award to the Sisters of St. Joseph's and their free literacy program for immigrants.
Meredith Nierman

"We want to let immigrants know that we're a welcoming police department," Burns said. "The Sisters have been really great at working with us on that."

On Monday, Gross and Walsh visited six neighborhoods from Roxbury to Hyde Park. On Tuesday, they will tour six more, including Chinatown, Southie and Dorchester.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Gross visited Dorchester on Monday. He is scheduled to visit Dorchester on Tuesday.

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