Boston police Superintendent William G. Gross, the department’s night commander who has also led the gang unit, will be named the force’s second in command as early as Thursday, officials said.
Two law enforcement officials briefed on the plans confirmed Gross’s promotion Wednesday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the move.
The historic appointment of Gross, an African-American with about three decades of experience on the force, will make him the department’s first black superintendent in chief. He will answer to Interim Commissioner William B. Evans, who will be named permanent commissioner on Thursday.
Gross could not be reached on Wednesday night.
A police spokesman and an aide to Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who selected Evans for the top job, each declined to comment.
But several city councilors welcomed the news, including Councilor at Large Stephen J. Murphy, a former chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
“I think he’s a proven leader as a police manager,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a good choice by Commissioner Evans. I think together, the two of them respect one another, have years of service in managing the Police Department together, and as colleagues will work well for the department and the new mayor and his administration.”
Councilor Tito Jackson was also pleased.
“I’m very happy and excited about the appointment of William Gross as superintendent in chief,” said Jackson, whose district includes Roxbury and parts of Dorchester. “Willie has a stellar record of community engagement and outreach and a sincere willingness to work with the community.”
Jackson added that Gross has a strong background in youth violence prevention and is “committed to diversity and has worked to make sure that the Police Department reflects the community that it serves.”
The issue of diversity in the department became a flashpoint before the mayoral election, when the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers pledged to “vigorously oppose” any candidate who committed to retaining Evans’s predecessor, Commissioner Edward F. Davis, if elected.
Larry Ellison, a Boston detective and the association’s president, had accused Davis of bias in promotions and meting out unfair discipline to officers of color, charges that Davis denied.
Ellison did not return calls.
Councilor Charles Yancey predicted that Gross will thrive in his new job. But the councilor tempered his enthusiasm.
“It would have been a far more significant milestone if he was named police commissioner, which I also think he was qualified for,” Yancey said. “But I’m sure the superintendent will do very well in this position, and he’s a team player, so he’s not going to rock the boat and make life difficult for my friend, Commissioner Evans.”
Gross served as a deputy superintendent and commander of a zone that includes Roxbury, Dorchester, and South Boston, according to a department biography . Other assignments have included heading the gang unit and supervising detectives and investigations.
Gross will replace current Superintendent in Chief Daniel P. Linskey, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. It was not immediately clear what his future plans are, though officials indicated that he intends to stay on in the department.
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the department’s largest union, praised both men on Twitter.
“We wish outgoing Chief Dan Linskey the best,” the union tweeted. “A Marine, a leader, a Bostonian, and a good cop. Whether you stay or move on, best wishes to you.”
The union added, “Speaking of intelligent, seasoned, pragmatic leadership,congratulations to Willie Gross; new superintendent in chief of the BPD. Lead on!”
Councilor Matt O’Malley added to the chorus of approval. Gross “has been a terrific partner and a great resource,” O’Malley said. “I think the team of Commissioner Evans and Chief Gross is really terrific.”
Community leaders agreed.
“He’s always been someone who I’ve felt has always had the best interests of the community at heart,” said Rufus Faulk, a program director with the Boston TenPoint Coalition, which works with youth to stem violence. “I know he’ll do a great job.”
Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, described Gross as an accessible police official.
“He has often extended his hand to work with the NAACP on issues of violence and a host of other issues,” Curry said. “We always enjoy working with him and look forward to working with him in the future.”