BOSTON (CBS) – The man chosen to succeed retiring Boston Police Commissioner William Evans will make history, becoming the first ever person of color to lead the 3,000-person Boston Police Department.
William Gross, who now serves as Evan’s superintendent-in-chief, was chosen by Mayor Marty Walsh, who called him a “proven leader who is trusted and respected in the community.”
Gross is a 33-year veteran of the Boston police department.
“Chief Gross is the right person to take on this command,” Walsh said during a Monday press conference, adding that appointing him as police commissioner “symbolizes progress.”
Gross, who was earlier appointed by Walsh as the city’s first African-American police superintendent-in-chief, thanked the mayor and Evans for their support.
“This is my sincere thanks to the community for helping to raise me, guide me and mentor me,” Gross said. “I’m just so overwhelmed with emotion, with pride. I’m just grateful.”
Gross described himself as a “true street cop” who worked his way up the ranks of the Boston Police Department, from a patrol officer in Dorchester to his current position.
“I am a true street cop. I started in Dorchester in 1985. Before that I was a cadet in 1983,” he said. “(I had) many calls from my mother worried because of the atmosphere at the time between the communities and BPD.”
Gross’ success story is one that other city children can emulate, he said.
“If you want change, be the change. That’s why I became a police officer,” he said.
And Monday’s historic appointment encourages city children to reach their goals and succeed, he said.
“It shows that any kid in Boston – we were poor and we made it – will have the opportunity to be the mayor, the commissioner, or chief,” Gross said.
He said he will work with other members of law enforcement and the community to curb violence in the city.
“One homicide is too much. One senseless act of violence is too much,” Gross said.
He’s a firm believer in community policing and dialogue. Commissioner Gross has worked tirelessly with Dr. Eugene Rivers of the TenPoint Coalition, who doesn’t think crime will now disappear.
“There have been black police commissioners before and I don’t know of any data that indicates that there was a corresponding decline in crime because you had a brother in the front office,” Rivers said.
Evans, who will leave his job next month, is slated to lead the public safety department at Boston College.