ADDING AN EXPLOSIVE new chapter to the leadership crisis in the Boston Police Department, embattled Commissioner Dennis White said in a videotaped affidavit that he told then-Mayor Marty Walsh about the 1999 restraining order his then-wife took out against him as part of ongoing conversations he had with Walsh in the years prior to being named commissioner.
White was sworn in as commissioner by Walsh on February 1, but was put on administrative leave two days later when the Boston Globe reported that his then-wife was issued a restraining order in 1999 after she alleged that he hit her and threatened to shoot her and a male acquaintance.
Walsh has insisted he knew nothing about the past allegations, and said he would not have named White commissioner had he known about his history.
But in the videotaped affidavit, recorded on Monday at his attorney’s Boston law office and released Tuesday morning, White says he had conversations with Walsh in which he told him about the restraining order.
White, who was appointed to a command staff position in 2014, shortly after Walsh took office, and became superintendent and chief of staff for then-Commissioner William Gross in 2018, said he and Walsh had many conversations, including exchanges over the years that covered “more personal things.”
He said Walsh talked to him about his “bouts with alcoholism,” while White said he spoke about things he went through during his divorce. “I mentioned that I had a restraining order put on me with false allegations that I threatened to shoot somebody,” said White.
Asked in the videotaped affidavit by his lawyer, Nicholas Carter, how Walsh reacted, White said, “He was very sympathetic toward what was going on with me, as I was about his past and how we’ve overcome some hurdles in our lives to move on.”
Walsh left the mayor’s office in March to become US labor secretary. A spokesperson for the Labor Department did not return a message Tuesday afternoon asking about White’s claims in the affidavit. Last month, Walsh released a statement denying that he knew anything of White’s history of domestic abuse allegations related to his former wife or a 1993 case involving a 19-year-old niece.
“Neither the allegations nor the internal affairs files were shared with me in 2014, or during any other consideration of Dennis White,” Walsh said. “Had I known, I would not have chosen him for police commissioner or any other role.”
Last month, Gross said in an affidavit that Walsh was aware of White’s 1993 and 1999 internal affairs record at the time he approved his 2014 promotion to the command staff.
White’s attorney also released a videotaped affidavit on Tuesday from Frank Mancini, the police department’s former chief of professional standards. Mancini confirmed that electronic records show he accessed White’s 1993 and 1999 internal affairs cases in January 2014 when White was promoted to a command staff position. Mancini said he was asked to pull records for then-Acting Police Commissioner William Evans on all officers being considered for command staff promotions.
Like Walsh, Evans has denied knowing about White’s internal affairs cases or the abuse allegations.
White has denied physically abusing either his former wife or niece.
Release of White’s affidavit came on the eve of a scheduled hearing Wednesday morning for White with Acting Mayor Kim Janey, after which she is expected to fire him from the commissioner’s position.
After White was put on leave, the city commissioned an outside investigator to look into the domestic abuse allegations. The report by attorney Tamsin Kaplan, which was released on May 14, painted a disturbing picture, based on four unnamed witnesses she spoke with, of multiple allegations of physical abuse by White of his then-wife, who is also a Boston police officer. The report also detailed a 1993 incident in which he was alleged to have struck his 19-year-old niece.
Neither incident resulted in criminal charges against White. In the 1999 case, one of two internal affairs charges against him — “neglect of duty and unreasonable judgment,” which related to an allegation that he slept with his service weapon under his pillow — was sustained, but it was later overturned after White appealed the finding.
Over the weekend, Carter recorded videotaped affidavits with White’s eldest daughter and former sister-in-law, both of whom say he never abused his former wife. His daughter said that White was, in fact, the victim of physical abuse by his wife during their tumultuous marriage.
In her affidavit, White’s daughter, Tiffany White, said her mother was physically abusive to her and to her father, describing a time she said her mother punched her so hard in the back she had trouble breathing and saying her mother once threw a TV and a vase or lamp at her father.
In a letter sent on Monday to Janey with the video affidavits, Carter urged her to review the statements before making a decision on White’s fate.
“While the majority of domestic violence victims are women, men are also victims. Dennis White and his family were victims,” Carter wrote. “It would be unfortunate to say the least if an innocent Black man, who has dedicated his career to serving Boston as a first responder, is terminated based on the unsworn statements of unidentified witnesses,” he said, an apparent reference to the report prepared by Kaplan.
Neither Tiffany White nor White’s former sister-in-law were contacted by Kaplan during her investigation.
A younger daughter of White’s has taken issue with her sister’s characterizations of events on social media.
Janey indicated that none of the new information is likely to alter the course of her plans to remove White.
In a radio interview Tuesday morning on GBH, Janey said she will hear White’s side on Wednesday morning, but she also seemed to make clear that her decision has already been made.
“We will make a determination based on all of the information,” she said. “The purpose of this hearing, though, is to move in a new direction, which is what I have already stated in the letter that went to Dennis White,” she added, a reference to a May 14 letter in which she outlined the grounds for terminating the Boston police veteran.
The letter cited White’s “lack of cooperation and judgment” during the investigation, his failure to “express any appreciation of the importance of domestic violence concerns to the public,” and his appearance at Boston Police headquarters several times while on leave, including for a video interview with Kaplan, which Janey said “may have intimidated” witnesses who were reluctant to speak with the investigator.
In his videotaped affidavit, White said he only resisted questions from the investigator that seemed outside the scope of the probe, including requests for information on his tax records, credit score, and sex life. He said he thought it would have been inappropriate to speak out publicly about domestic violence while the investigation was underway and he was on leave. He said he also came to police headquarters a couple of other times after being put on leave to get information being requested by department officials.
White said he was never instructed by Walsh or Janey administration officials not to go to the department headquarters building.
White sought a court order to block Janey from proceeding with a hearing to dismiss him, arguing that he’s entitled to a full judicial hearing in Superior Court, where he can call and cross-examine witnesses. His motions were rejected by a Superior Court judge and by a justice on the state Appeals Court.
While White seems unlikely to salvage his job in Wednesday’s hearing, the flurry of affidavits could become fodder for a wrongful termination case against the city.
White says Walsh himself suggested as much in a conversation they had two weeks ago. White said the former mayor called him on May 14, the day the investigator’s report was released and the day Janey made clear that she would move to fire him.
“He kept stating that he didn’t believe Acting Mayor Janey had the authority to terminate me,” White said. He said Walsh apologized to him and added, “This is going to cost the city a lot of money if she does that to you.”