BPD commish shows his blue colors

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.

Walker says “there is nothing insulting about criminal justice advocates asking questions of a police department.” Gross is the city’s first black police commissioner, and Walker adds that the backlash against a white police chief making the same comments would have been far stronger.

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.

–MICHAEL JONAS


MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Marty Walsh wants to sell a prime bit of city-owned real estate along the Southeast Expressway for redevelopment — with a soccer stadium for the New England Revolution among possible uses — but City Councilor Michelle Wu says there has yet not been enough public vetting of the issue and possible uses for the land. (Boston Globe)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial applauds Pittsfield’s Homelessness Prevention Committee for holding its first meeting. CommonWealth recently reported how homelessness is an emerging issue in western Massachusetts.

The Dorchester Historical Society apologizes for a holiday greeting card that said: “We’re dreaming of a white Dorchester.” (WBUR)

Pittsfield forgives $2.55 million in loans awarded to the Beacon Cinema in a bid to pave the way for a new theater chain to take over and reopen it. (Berkshire Eagle)

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone will be sidelined for several weeks after developing a severe case of shingles. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

US Rep. Seth Moulton is continuing to insist that there are enough Democrats to block Nancy Pelosi from becoming speaker, but his insurgent group still doesn’t have a candidate to rally around. (WBUR) But the post-mortems are already beginning on his attempt to push leadership change, with speculation over whether Moulton will pay a price for his efforts. (Boston Globe)

A federal court rules that state anti-camping laws, which are often designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the streets, can’t be enforced if the person really has nowhere to sleep. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who brought Mississippi’s shameful past into the present with an offhand remark about public hangings, held off Democratic challenger Mike Espy in a closer than expected runoff, winning 53-47. (New York Times)

Could Ed Markey face a primary challenge in 2020? (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Facing a backlash, the owners of Trillium Brewing Company restored wages that had been cut in the company’s new Fort Point outlet. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Community members in New Bedford gathered at a forum to oppose charter school expansion. (South Coast Today)

Brockton superintendent Kathleen Smith earned positive reviews from the city’s school committee, which commended her for good performance despite a shrinking budget for the department. (The Enterprise)

Newton teachers got support from students, fellow teachers, and administrators against charges of anti-Semitism in their curriculum. (Boston Globe)

A former Cohasset middle school teacher, who is already facing criminal charges of molesting a student, will now face further charges as a second former student has come forward alleging she was also molested by him. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Patients are complaining to Attorney General Maura Healey about visits to physicians’ offices or urgent care centers that result in huge charges for “outpatient hospital” visits. (Boston Globe)

A physicians group is urging children’s hospitals not to serve hot dogs to their patients because the food is unhealthy and a choking hazard. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

A commuter rail train on the Fitchburg line derailed yesterday in Belmont when a wheel fell off, stranding 800 passengers, but causing no injuries. (Boston Herald)

The head of transportation policy for Uber makes the case for congestion-pricing of area roadways. (Boston Globe)

New MBTA wash trains deal with slippery rail conditions caused by fallen decomposed leaves on the commuter rail. (WGBH)

A Herald editorial says declining ridership on the MBTA is concerning, but cautions that hiking fares and parking fees in face of revenue shortfalls is not the answer.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Few people have ever heard of the region’s wholesale electricity market, but it’s responsible for keeping the lights on in New England, Right now, it’s going through tough times. (CommonWealth)

ARTS

The Berkshire Museum said it is halting its money-raising art sale after selling just 22 pieces for $53 million. The museum had originally planned to sell 40 pieces. (WBUR)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA 

Consumers spent more than $2.2 million at the state’s two retail pot shops during their first five days in business. (State House News Service) The two shops spent $39,000 on police details. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal judge has ordered the Essex County House of Correction to provide an inmate with medication to treat an addiction to opiates, ruling that denying the treatment could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other constitutional protections. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

WCVB-TV reporter Jorge Quiroga will retire at the end of the year after nearly 45 years at the station.

Howie Carr gets the Boston Magazine treatment.