An independent investigator’s report on past allegations of domestic violence against Dennis White, who was named Boston Police Commissioner in February, uncovered more graphic and startling details than earlier reports. It also pointed to continued attempts by the Boston Police Department and City Hall to keep secret allegations that had been documented 22 years earlier. The investigator, attorney Tamsin R. Kaplan, was only hired to vet the police commissioner 11 days after he was sworn in — and more than a week after the Globe broke the news about a 1999 domestic violence allegation against White.
Here are 11 of the revelations the report contains:
1. Blue wall of silence
Of the 21 witnesses the investigator sought for information, only seven cooperated. The report suggests Boston police officers were discouraged from cooperating with the investigation, stating, “One retired BPD officer told me that they had received at least five phone calls directing them not to talk with me.”
2. Details of the abuse allegations
The domestic violence allegations against White were repeated and brutal, according to accounts provided by four witnesses who provided information. The victim had said he’d burned her hair; put her face to the stove and tried to turn it on; thrown a TV at her; put his hands on her neck and started to strangle her; stepped on her face; and stomped on her legs when she crawled under the bed to escape his kicking. The victim kept a diary that documented her experiences and shared notes with a relative for safekeeping, stating, “if anything happens to me, I want you to have this diary. . . . If anything happens to me, it would be Dennis.”
3. White’s former wife reported abuse multiple times
A witness confirmed to the investigator that White’s former wife contacted the domestic violence unit multiple times to report allegations of physical abuse by White. However, no internal affairs investigations were opened until the victim got a restraining order in May 1999.
4. Disappearing records
The investigator requested all files from the domestic violence unit relating to the reported abuse allegations against White, but a search of Boston police archives turned up nothing. This is despite the fact that a witness told the investigator that “reports were made” at the time of the wife’s calls.
5. Internal affairs ruling changed
Internal affairs had originally sustained a finding of neglect of duty and unreasonable judgment by White over an episode when he was accused of threatening to shoot his then-wife in 1999. That finding was later downgraded to “filed,” on the recommendation of Superintendent Thomas A. Dowd and with the approval of Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans. White revealed during the investigative probe that he had initiated the change with his commanding officer who had said, “Let me speak with the higher ups.”
6. Retaliation against domestic violence officers
A witness said officers in the domestic violence unit had “been through hell and back” because of retaliation against them over the White case. Sergeant Gladys Gaines, who had investigated the case, was transferred out of the unit in February 2000.
7. City Hall blocks the investigation it initiated
The city’s top lawyer, then-corporation counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, initially told Kaplan to investigate White “to the fullest extent possible.” But 10 days into the investigator’s probe, which was expected to take several more weeks, O’Flaherty told Kaplan to terminate the work. Though O’Flaherty soon reversed that decision, White then refused to cooperate, saying the city was not conducting the investigation in good faith.
8. City meddling
The investigator was not permitted to use her own contracted vendor to conduct a background check on White through the Criminal Offender Record Information system. Instead, the background check was provided to her through the city. The Office of Human Resources had its own vendor conduct the background check, which was forwarded to the investigator through the city’s lawyer.
9. Defense meddling
After White did submit to an interview, his lawyer objected to some of the claims made against him and threatened legal action, including a potential defamation claim. The lawyer asked to review a draft of the report before it was released and to “request revisions if inappropriate content is included.” (The investigator refused.)
10. Another alleged victim
In a 1993 altercation, a 19-year-old woman known to White alleged that he punched her, threw her down the stairs and out his front door, calling her a “whore” — after she had rejected a sexual advance by White and told his wife about it. The investigator interviewed witnesses and unearthed details from the BPD Internal Affairs Division, court records, and medical records. White admitted only to hitting her with an open hand after she charged him and kicked him in a knee that had recently undergone surgery. Each filed a claim against the other that was dismissed by the court, though she was granted a protection from abuse order; White sought one against her and was denied. Internal affairs determined he did not physically abuse her or violate any BPD rules regarding the use of force, agreeing that his strike was a “reflexive self-defense response.”
11. The Boston police commissioner doesn’t live in Boston
A footnote makes clear that the suspended commissioner isn’t a city resident. Boston has a city residency requirement for employees, but many city police do not satisfy it.
“As contained in Commissioner White’s personnel records and corroborated by Commissioner White during his April 15, 2021 interview, he is not a resident of the City of Boston. Commissioner White currently resides in Randolph, Massachusetts.”