BOSTON (CBS) — U.S. Attorney General William Barr made an unannounced visit to Boston on Thursday, meeting with Police Commissioner William Gross.
“Today Attorney General Barr met w/@BPDPCGross and his outstanding @bostonpolice team,” a spokeswoman for Barr tweeted, sharing a photo of the two men smiling side-by-side. “Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a U.S. Attorney General had visited Boston PD. Thank you, Comm. Gross, for your wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice.”
Today, Attorney General Barr met w/ @BPDPCGross and his outstanding @bostonpolice team. Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a U.S. Attorney General had visited Boston PD. Thank you, Comm. Gross, for your wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice. pic.twitter.com/xOob3OiMyM
— Kerri Kupec DOJ (@KerriKupecDOJ) June 18, 2020
Commissioner Gross said they discussed several topics including the racial divide in the country, police reform and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Just over a week ago, Barr appeared on Face The Nation to talk about protests that broke out following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
“I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr said. “I understand the- the distrust, however, of the African-American community given the history in this country.”
WATCH: Commissioner Gross On Meeting With Barr
The meeting between Barr and Gross drew criticism from Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu. She tweeted, “Racism Is A Public Health Crisis…aka don’t welcome the person who dismisses systemic racism & creates/enforces racist policies through abuses of power!!! This is a disgrace to our city & a breach of trust to our communities.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said, “We are in court against Bill Barr constantly, and I can tell you this man does not care about justice or the people of Boston.”
Commissioner Gross said the meeting did not mean he agrees with Barr’s policies. “We are Boston and we are strong,” Gross said at a press conference Thursday night. “We don’t duck and we don’t hide from conversations.”
Gross said he took advantage of the opportunity to discuss how Boston Police are working with the community and supporting officers. He said he gave Barr his perspective of the ongoing situation as an African American man and as a police commissioner.
“People are dying out there, civilians, police and as a Black man who is a student of history, from William E.B Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, you never ever run and hide from a conversation,” Gross said. “Because you’re supposed to have hard conversations when it is affecting the lives of the people of your community.”
Walsh also tweeted about the meeting saying, “Attorney General Barr and the Trump Administration do not share Boston’s values or my values. His actions and general lack of respect for people and their rights are a danger to our city and the future of our country.”
Attorney General Barr and the Trump Administration do not share Boston’s values or my values. His actions and general lack of respect for people and their rights are a danger to our city and the future of our country.
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) June 18, 2020
Gross said the mayor had nothing to do with the meeting. “I wanted to have this discussion as a Black man,” Gross said. “I wanted to have this discussion as a commissioner that made it this far in the community that raised me. So that’s what I did today. Shame on anyone that has me cornered by guilt by association because I had a discussion.”
Gross said last week that he supports “sharing responsibilities” as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for moving 20% of the police overtime budget to community programs.
“We shouldn’t have to respond to each and every call when it doesn’t require your uniform, it requires mental healthcare and other people coming to the plate,” Gross said.