Janey decried ‘blue wall of silence’ — while accepting it 

Acting mayor inherits a mess, modulates her approach

THE MESS THAT is the leadership of the Boston Police Department was not of Kim Janey’s making. But it now falls squarely in her lap — right as the mayoral race she’s competing in starts to heat up — and it’s not clear that there is a neat and simple resolution in sight that will let the city’s acting mayor claim to be leading Boston decisively into a bright new public safety future that moves past the troubles left by Marty Walsh. 

What’s more, Janey’s role now, with the ultimate authority over the police department, has put her in an awkward position, as evidenced by one interesting nugget in the city-commissioned report released on Friday that looked into past allegations of domestic abuse by Police Commissioner Dennis White.

In a City Hall briefing on Friday afternoon when the report was released, Janey said it is time for White to go, and she decried a “blue wall of silence” that she said kept police officers from cooperating with the investigation by attorney Tamsin Kaplan. 

“In addition to the facts of this case, the investigation revealed a culture of fear and silence within the Boston Police Department,” Janey said. “Sworn police officers refused to speak to investigators, frustrating efforts to uncover the truth.” 

But Janey herself offered support for the acting police commissioner’s reluctance to order officers to speak with Kaplan. 

In her report, Kaplan writes that as part of her effort to interview current and retired Boston police officers, the city’s corporation counsel, Henry Luthin, introduced her via email to Acting Police Commissioner Gregory Long and asked that Long help facilitate interviews with the officers. “After conferring with the Acting Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Superintendent Long declined to provide assistance,” Kaplan wrote. 

Kaplan writes that she was told David Fredette, the legal advisor to the Boston Police Department, would be “instructed to facilitate interviews” with two of the three current BPD employees she wanted to interview. She says Fredette connected her by email with two officers and provided her the email address for a third officer. It’s not clear from her report whether Kaplan spoke with any or all of three officers. (Kaplan noted that she tried to reach a total of 21 witnesses, including 12 current and retired Boston Police Department officers and nine civilians, as part of her investigation, and was only able to speak with seven of them.)

City Hall officials say Long was concerned about his ability to lead the department if he was ordering officers to speak with someone investigating its commissioner. Janey, through her chief of staff, concurred, and the decision was made to have the department’s legal counsel help facilitate the interviews.

Long is no doubt trying to instill confidence and loyalty among officers as he is tasked with keeping the ship afloat amid multiple crises in the department.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Meanwhile, Janey’s plans to make a clean break with Walsh’s botched pick for commissioner have now gone sideways, with White going to court to seek an injunction blocking any effort to show him a quick exit. 

Whether it would have made any difference to have Long directly involved in trying to secure officers’ cooperation is unclear. But his reluctance to assume that role — and Janey’s support for that stance — may underscore not only the power of the “blue wall of silence,” but the particular challenge that comes when the conduct being investigated is that of the guy in charge of the department, at least on paper.