‘We have a vision’: Gross sworn in as Boston’s first African-American police commissioner

BOSTON (WHDH) - A standing-room-only crowd packed into a Baptist church in Roxbury Monday to witness the historic swearing-in of William G. Gross, Boston’s first African-American police commissioner, who is taking over the department following the departure of William B. Evans.

After being sworn in, Gross, who was born and raised in Dorchester, presented his mother, Deanna, a longtime parishioner of Morning Star Baptist Church, with a bouquet of flowers and thanked her for imparting to him the life lessons that guided him toward becoming the department’s 42nd commissioner. He also noted how important it is that he, Evans, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh are all “children of the community.”

“That’s what resonates in this city today,” Gross said. “That our leaders, and everyone you see here before you, we really do care about the community.”

Gross, who referred to Evans as his “older brother,” asked the more than 1,000 people in attendance, “Where can a kid from Southie, a kid from Dorchester, and a kid from Dorchester all be a part of leading the city together? Not walking ahead, walking together.”

“Great pride we have in this city, we’ve repelled two terrorist attacks, we’ve gone on to becomes stronger and it’s because of forward-thinking leaders and a strong sense of community,” Gross said while speaking of Evans. “I thank you for having the confidence in me to guide me to the next level, and I will have you on speed dial — just so you know.”

He also stressed that while the department has become a national model, there is still “work to do.”

“We have a vision. We know where we want to be,” Gross said before addressing the children in the crowd. “Our vision includes you. You are the future leaders. This is why we do what we do.”

Walsh hailed Gross as someone with a big heart, who cares deeply about the community he serves.

“Willy Gross doesn’t just reflect this community, it’s in his identity,” Walsh said. “He reflects this community in his ability and his values. That’s why he’s the right person right now to be Boston’s forty-second police commissioner. He’s going to build on the record that has made our community safer and made our city a national model.”

Gross said his four goals for the department are: enhance community policing, articulate a plan for diversity that includes all of Boston, maintain transparency, and enhancing officer wellness.

“We still have work to do, and we recognize that. We want every child in every part of this city to feel welcome to put on the uniform. Whether it’s Boston police, Suffolk County Sheriff’s state police, or any police department across the commonwealth. We want you to feel welcome. We have a vision for you and we know that you are our future leaders … One day everybody will feel confident. But until then, we won’t waver or grow tired of educating people about how we do things. We’re in 21st century policing. What does that mean? It means we’ve learned from lessons past and we’ve come forward, with open arms, empathy, sympathy, care, and respect,” he said.