Incoming Boston Police Commissioner William Gross met with a group of Boston-area high school students last week at Boston Police Headquarters to discuss issues such as gang violence.

Gross talked candidly about race relations in the city and within the police force. Originally from Hillsboro, Maryland, Gross shared with the students the story of how he became a Boston police officer. He said he moved to Boston with his mother when he was 12 years old. Gross told the students he became a Boston Police cadet in 1983, which is an apprenticeship program.

He said at that time he had stereotypical views: “All the white cops are going to hate me, but I’m going to show them that I have the right to be here," he remembered thinking at the time. He added, “guess what I learned when I went in — that not all white cops were bad and not all black cops were good.”

Gross said it came down to people, how they were raised, and their views.

Gross discussed his career path with the 23 high school students, who are enrolled in the 2018 Judicial Youth Core. It’s a program through the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which teaches students about the court system and the rule of law. Gross, who spoke for more than 90 minutes, said that this is his favorite group to speak with each year.

Nate Francois of Mattapan, a student at New Mission High School, asked Gross a question about gang violence and how he will tackle it as the incoming police commissioner. “I asked him because there's a lot of gang violence around where I live," he said. "A lot of my friends are involved, and I had friends killed over the years, and I just want to know what he was going to do to stop it.”

Gross told the students, “the onus isn't solely on police. The more ears and eyes we have to address these threats to our community, the stronger we become as a community if we address them together."

Gross also talked about what it means to become Boston’s first African-American police commissioner.

“The long-term goal is for the Boston police department to truly reflect the people we serve in the community," he said, "because that helps strengthen our police department."

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Incoming Boston Police Chief William Gross met with Boston high school students to discuss youth gang violence and community policing.
Marilyn Schairer WGBH News

Gross says in the short term, he wants to continue to beef up the city's community policing program.

“Instead of just having more police cars and equipment and dedicating officers to only answering to calls and responding, we’re proactive," he said. He added that he wants to maintain the practice in all of the city's police districts of officers who are handpicked to serve the community and foster good relationships.