Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, Boston’s first black commissioner, told Boston Public Radio on Friday that he “absolutely” has felt unwelcome during his tenure at the Boston Police Department. Gross did not offer specifics about his experiences.
Gross said that his ability to rise through the ranks despite experiencing prejudice came from his upbringing.
“I was told to read from the Bible, Bible encyclopedia ... when I was four or five, and to have discussions. I know my history. Everybody helped build this country and contributed to everything that makes this country great. I sincerely believe if you want change, be the change. That didn’t hinder me from seeking a profession at the BPD. I knew the history of how it was sued in the 70’s,” Gross said in his inaugural appearance on the monthly segment Ask The Commissioner.
The BPD has been under scrutiny before for their lack of diversity. Boston is 56 percent people of color, according to theBoston Planning and Development Agency, and that majority is not represented at the BPD. The BPD has not commented on the exact numbers of their demographics, but Oren Sellstrom, litigation director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, toldNBC Boston in March 2017 that about two-thirds of the police department is white and over 80 percent of the superior officers are white. The BPD hired Michael Gaskins in February 2017 to become their first diversity recruitment officer as the number of people of color within the department and applying to the department fell.
Gross said that the best way to address the lack of diversity in the police department is by debunking the stereotypes that deter young people of color from applying to be a police officer.
“We have to get rid of the perception that it is just a good ol’ boy network and just one ethnicity is welcome. Let people know that you are welcome to the first responder family. Invite them in,” said Gross.
“A lot of folks don’t want the heat from the community, the anti-police sentiment across the nation. It is just a very taxing career. You have to weigh a lot of things,” he continued.