BOSTON (WHDH) - You may not believe it, but you’re looking at Boston Police working on one of the meanest streets in the city. Blue Hill Avenue is a major thoroughfare in Area B—Boston’s most dangerous neighborhood. Last year, there were more murders, rapes and robberies in Area B than in any other section of the city.
To fight crime, police and community leaders meet once a week at the District B-3 Police Station for a peace walk, led by Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross:
“I believe in engaging the community,” said Gross, “so I get out and walk and talk all the time.”
Gross, who’s been on the department for thirty years, is the city’s first black chief.
“You learn that we have concerns about the same issues…Family, safety, and the well being of the community,” said Gross. And, instead of looking like Clint Eastwood and macho cop, it’s like–hey–this person’s human.”
Gross’s challenge is to change how people see police:
“What I’ve learned is that not everyone who carries a gun is a bad person, not everyone who does a crime is a bad person. But, as police officers, our job transcends just locking people up. We have to know why they did what they did,” said Gross.
But don’t think he’s soft on crime:
“You’re not soft if you have empathy, care, and respect for people. As a matter of fact, you’re stronger,” said Gross.
And he’s strong enough to admit what many officials won’t:
“Everybody knows there’s racism. We acknowledge that,” said Gross.
At Boston Police Headquarters, in his office filled with reminders of the struggle for civil rights, I ask Gross what he thinks when he watches all the anti-police protests in other American cities:
“People aren’t just protesting for nothing. If people think there are injustices. If people think there’s no changes from the civil rights movement to now, and that the color of your skin–your life has no value because of that–and see no change, then you’re going to protest,” said Gross.
He’s proud of this city’s record during public protests:
Chief Gross: “There was nothing burning, nothing broken, and nothing stolen in boston.”
Andy Hiller: “Are there two Bostons–a white Boston and a minority Boston?”
Chief Gross: “Absolutely. But are we moving forward? Yeah.”
Hiller: “Are you ever conflicted and caught between being a black man and a police officer?”
Chief Gross: “That’s an excellent question. The confliction–if there was one–would be if there was no marked improvement since I came on to the department until now. Because how could I work for a department like that if I see no improvement?”
And Chief Gross wants the public to improve, too:
“What about police officers and how we feel? We say black lives matter, we say this life matters or that life matters, and I agree. But, what if you…pay the ultimate sacrifice, and you’re killed in the line of duty? Does your life matter?” asked Gross.
Superintendent Gross talks the talk and walks the walk. He is taking back Boston’s streets, one step at a time.
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