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Mayor Walsh, Police Commissioner Gross condemn recent violence in Boston

Boston, MA - 5/28/2020 - BPD Commissioner William Gross, foreground, speaking at a May event, while Walsh listens in the background - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston police Commissioner William G. Gross on Tuesday condemned the city’s recent wave of violence that left seven people dead in the past week, including a 15-year-old boy who was fatally shot July 2 in Roxbury.

“When you see a 15-year-old boy, or hear a 15-year-old boy lose his life, it hits home even harder how senseless these acts of violence truly are,” Walsh said during a briefing outside City Hall.

His words were echoed by Gross, who told reporters the city had experienced a “very trying week” that included five fatal shootings and two fatal stabbings. He commended the public for providing information that helped police quickly make arrests in two cases.

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The community, Gross said, is “saying ‘we’ve had enough.' A community that’s saying, ‘the life of a 15-year-old boy should not be taken at such an early age.' ... This is the type of teamwork that we need going forward.”

Walsh said his administration won’t grow complacent in the face of spikes in violence.

“Violence will never be accepted as normal in Boston,” said Walsh, who touted the city’s summer jobs program for local youth and other outreach initiatives. “We cannot rest until we eliminate it in our city. We have not wavered in that belief.”

Authorities have identified the 15-year-old boy killed on July 2 as Xhavier Rico, of Dorchester. Rico was shot on Mount Pleasant Avenue that night around 10 p.m. One of three people shot, he died after he was taken to a local hospital.

Both Walsh and Gross also addressed the department’s overtime budget, which has become a source of debate lately, with some calling for it to be cut as protests against systemic racism continue both locally and across the country.

The city’s operating budget approved last month includes the reallocation of $12 million in police overtime spending — 20 percent of the department’s overtime budget — to other programs, including $3 million to the Public Health Commission for programs to combat systemic racism.

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That cut was not enough for some residents and advocates, who pushed for more money to be rerouted from the police budget to community programs.

Recently, some city councilors have called for Walsh’s team to provide a detailed plan of how the cuts will be achieved, given that police overtime is one of the few line items in the operating budget that is allowed to run over its allotted amount.

At Tuesday’s news conference, both Walsh and Gross spoke about police overtime, with the mayor saying the commissioner had “some work to do in finding out where that $12 million can come from.”

Gross acknowledged that the “mayor is right, we do have work to do, but it wasn’t just like we were senselessly spending money.”

Gross also ticked off recent overtime costs for his department, including more than $2 million for police coverage of the Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard areas, places where homeless people and those struggling with opioid abuse have traditionally gathered. Additionally, Gross said almost $3 million in overtime costs went toward covering COVID-19-related losses in the department. Recent protests have triggered more than $3 million in OT costs, he said.

”This was done in protection of the city but can we make cuts in other places? Of course,” said Gross.

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Gross said he hoped that any funds diverted away from his department would go toward programs that would help relieve Boston police from wearing its "many, many, many hats."

He said the department would never jeopardize the safety of the public.

”If we need officers there, they will be there,” said Gross. “We’ll articulate why that’s an overtime expenditure.”

Said Walsh, “Hopefully we don’t have to have extra police officers on because of crime.”

Felicia Gans of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.