BPD commish shows his blue colors
Gross rant at ACLU undermines his community cred
WILLIE GROSS’S weekend Facebook post may have received lots of “likes” from law enforcement compatriots, but it stirred a lot of unnecessary ill will in a city that has been long stained by racial tension but so far escaped the police-community showdowns that have riven other US cities in recent years.
Boston’s newly installed police commissioner took to social media to unspool an angry rant at leaders of the local ACLU, whom he branded “paper warriors” because of a lawsuit the group filed seeking to gain more information about a database the police department uses to track alleged gang members.
The ACLU says it’s concerned that some undocumented Latin American teens are inaccurately being branded as gang members, and that the information may be making them more vulnerable to deportation. The group’s director, Carol Rose, lashed out at Gross, saying he was trying “to divert attention from the serious issues raised by an ACLU lawsuit.”
Globe columnist Kevin Cullen says Gross’s resentment of the group is “human nature,” given that the ACLU focuses a lot of energy on questionable police conduct. But fellow Globe columnist Adrian Walker calls the commissioner’s outburst “baffling,” especially given Gross’s reputation for fostering positive relationships with the community and groups that represent it.
Mayor Marty Walsh, meanwhile, probably wanted to talk about almost anything other than the Gross-ACLU dustup. Reluctant to weigh in strongly on either side, he was left to wax bromidic about his respect for both.
“The ACLU has a very important role in society and we support them on their role. I’m going to continue to support them on their role, but I support my police commissioner and my police department,” Walsh said yesterday.
Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld slammed Walsh yesterday for not standing four-square with the police. “No more wishy-washy statements trying to pander to both sides,” he wrote.
It may have been driven by a calculated wish not to offend either side, but Walsh nonetheless seemed to hit the right notes by suggesting both the police and ACLU play important and worthy roles.Gross ripped the ACLU for not being there when police are patrolling dangerous streets or forced to tell a mother that her or son or daughter is dead as a result of gang violence. Should we also take issue with state officials who are trying to improve utility safety because they’re not the ones who drop down into manholes to carry out emergency pipeline repairs in middle of freezing winter nights?
You can understand Gross’s impulse, but still see the logic missing in his tirade. Gross has lots of friends around Boston, of both the Facebook and everyday-garden variety, and they cross every demographic line. That’s part of the promise he holds to be a great police commissioner — if he can keep it in mind.