Barr visit with Gross stirs outcry

When you want a controversial photo op, look no further than US Attorney General William Barr. He will deliver. Three weeks after the AG’s involvement in President Trump’s much-criticized walk to an iconic Washington church to take a picture hoisting a Bible in the air, a spokeswoman for Barr set off of local frenzy by tweeting out a photo of the attorney general standing yesterday at Boston police headquarters with Police Commissioner William Gross yesterday.

“Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a US Attorney General had visited Boston PD,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “Thank you, Comm. Gross, for your wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice.”

The visit, which Mayor Marty Walsh said he didn’t know the subject of, comes as protests demanding police reform and defunding of departments continue across Massachusetts.

Barr is currently facing a lawsuit from protesters who were forcibly cleared with chemical irritants and smoke canisters from an area near the White House to make way for the presidential photo-op at St. John’s Church. The demonstrators say their constitutional rights were violated. Barr has said he didn’t give the tactical order to clear the protesters, even though a White House spokeswoman said he did.

Walsh seemed determined to distance himself from yesterday’s visit, tweeting out that the top law enforcement official and 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.”

City Councilors were quick to condemn the meeting, with City Councilor Michelle Wu tweeting that Barr has “dismissed systemic racism and creates/enforces racist policies through abuses of power.”

City Councilor Andrea Campbell was even more succinct, “Defund whatever the hell this is,” she tweeted above the photo of a smiling Barr and Gross.

Amid criticism, Gross held a press conference Thursday evening, noting that Walsh had no involvement in the meeting.

Gross said that while he may not agree with Barr on policy issues, he hoped the attorney general walked away knowing more about the Boston Police Department’s approach. He said he thought Barr should hear the message from a “black man and from a proud police commissioner,” in hopes that improvements could be made across the country before there’s “a damn race war.”

Gross said he highlighted to Barr the “8 Can’t Wait” reform policies that the department announced last week it would adhere to, although he said in the same breath that the department already had those policies in place. Gross also recommended enhanced training for police departments “from small to large,” law enforcement certification, and the adoption of de-escalation policies.

“No one hates a bad cop more than a good cop,” he said. “You can’t go from one department to another department hiding behind sealed documents.” He decried police corruption.

Earlier this week, however, a Boston Globe analysis alleged that misconduct ends up being  tolerated in the department Gross now leads. The report on lavish overtime spending highlighted the fact that 20-year veteran Lieutenant Timothy Kervin managed to keep his job after 191 violations involving payroll and is now the highest paid employee by Boston.

Gross said he’s undaunted by the discord over Barr’s visit. “They can tweet whatever they want,” he said at his press briefing. “But know this—I bragged about Boston today. Shame on anyone that has me cornered by guilt by association because I had a discussion.”

But the problem with that discussion to some, is that it seems no elected officials or community members were invited to the surprise visit. Late Thursday night, Rep. Ayanna Pressley tweeted her unhappiness with the situation. “AG Barr let’s skip the pleasantries,” she wrote. “Next time you set foot in my district I demand a face to face meeting where you look me in the eye and explain why you tear gassed peaceful protestors. Understood? I will have counsel present @MassAGO [state Attorney General Maura Healey].”

SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

The Boston Herald revives questions about an alleged sexual assault by Gov. Charlie Baker’s son on a JetBlue flight two years ago after obtaining an unredacted copy of the State Police report on the incident.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A visit by Attorney General William Barr to Boston police headquarters is stirring controversy, with critics saying Police Commissioner William Gross should not have met with him and Gross pushing back that the door to conversation should always be open. (Boston Globe)

Government officials on the Cape begin to push back against the governor’s executive orders dealing with COVID-19, and so do businesses. (Cape Cod Times)

Mayor Marty Walsh defends as necessary Boston’s huge overtime payments to police that have dozens of officers earning more than $300,000 a year. (Boston Globe)

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse declares racism and police violence a public health crisis. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) Following protests, Northampton cuts its police budget by 10 percent. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Early indications from Minneapolis, Seattle, and Boston indicate George Floyd protesters are not becoming infected with the coronavirus. So far, the rate in Boston is 1 percent of those who were tested tested positive. (Wired)

The coronavirus outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home has been linked to 76 veteran deaths, but all those who survived the onslaught have been declared “clinically recovered.” (MassLive)

A veteran died and his body lay undetected for five weeks in a stairwell at the Bedford VA campus. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Oklahoma supreme court will rule today on a petition seeking to block on public health grounds President Trump’s planned rally on Saturday at a Tulsa arena. (Washington Post)

Globe columnist Adrian Walker takes stock of Juneteenth, the celebration of which today comes packed with the current racial reckoning across the country.

ELECTIONS

Facebook pulls down Trump campaign ads with inverted red triangles in them, which the social media company said were once used by the Nazis to identify political opponents. (NPR)

MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons says he’s still confident the Republican Party can pick up state legislative seats in November, despite recent losses. (The Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Eastern Bank is going public. (Boston Globe)

An HVAC contractor from Peabody sued the Baker administration in federal court arguing that the governor needs to reopen the state. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Cape Cod business owners protested the Baker administration’s continued shutdown of some businesses by holding their own version of the Boston Tea Party. (Cape Cod Times)

With court permission, town officials changed the locks and shut off power and water to an Oxford gym, which had reopened in defiance of state orders. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

Massachusetts’s state universities will have on-campus classes at all nine campuses this year. (MassLive)

With at least 64 cases of coronavirus among staff and children and their families, several emergency child care centers in the state have undergone temporary closures — but state officials aren’t saying how many. (Boston Globe)

The Massachusetts Teachers Association says elimination of the MCAS exam is part of “dismantling a system of institutional racism.” (Boston Herald)

ARTS AND CULTURE

The governing board of the Mass Cultural Council approved the proposed Fall River Cultural District. (Herald News)

TRANSPORTATION

The new US House infrastructure bill includes money for rail projects and broadband, and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, of Springfield, says that money could help the East-West rail project and Western Massachusetts broadband expansion. (MassLive)

Logan Airport is dramatically dialing back expansion plans as the pandemic brings most air travel to a halt. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Criminal justice experts say the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta is a complicated case involving split-second decisions. (New York Times)

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says people assign him a negative connotation because he enforces the rules and protesters want the rules to be different. (Standard-Times)

MEDIA

The union representing WBUR news and content producers signs its first contract, which includes raises for half the workers. The new contract comes on the heels of the layoff of 29 employees, 10 percent of the workforce. (WBUR)