He’s been the leader of a Police Department embroiled in controversy, yet has largely worked below the radar.
Boston police superintendent in chief Gregory Long has served as acting commissioner since February, when newly appointed Commissioner Dennis White was hastily placed on leave pending an investigation into past domestic violence allegations. And Long has served as the official leader of the department’s operations since 2018, when former commissioner William Gross named him chief superintendent, in charge of all the department’s commanders.
Now, after nearly two decades out of public view, a new report has thrust Long’s leadership into the spotlight amid allegations that potential witnesses in the investigation into White were discouraged from cooperating, what was seen as an extension of the “Blue Wall of Silence” culture in which police officers protect each other.
Attorney Tamsin R. Kaplan, of Davis Malm, who was commissioned to investigate the allegations against White, alleged in her final report Friday that, of the 21 witnesses she sought for information, only seven cooperated. “One retired BPD officer told me that they had received at least five phone calls directing them not to talk with me,” she said. Another self-described retired police officer offered unsolicited information defending White. Kaplan wrote in her report, “They explained, ‘many people say don’t do anything against a police officer.”
Kaplan added that the city’s corporation counsel introduced her to Long by e-mail, after she sought help with interviews of current and retired Boston police officers. But still, Long “declined to provide assistance,” instead deferring to the mayor’s office, according to the report. She eventually interviewed active police officers without the assistance of Long.
Sergeant Detective John Boyle, the department spokesman, said he had no information about anyone from the Police Department suggesting witnesses should not cooperate.
“Superintendent in Chief Gregory Long believes in accountability and transparency within every rank of the police department, both civilian and sworn,” Boyle said in a statement. “The Boston Police Department continues our work around police reform through policy and training and look forward to working with the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) to achieve reforms recommended and enacted by the Boston Police Reform Task Force as well as Massachusetts Police Reform Legislation.”
Over the last several months, under Long’s tenure, the department has been criticized for being slow to embrace reforms that have been pushed in Boston, part of a national reckoning over accountability in policing.
The day after Long was appointed acting commissioner on Feb. 3, The Boston Globe requested his basic employment records, including any awards received. But the department has ignored those requests. The Globe has since appealed to the state Supervisor of Records, which last week ordered police to respond. So far, the department has not complied.
What little the department has made public shows that Long had previously headed up the department’s Bureau of Investigative Services, and has also served as commander of the special investigations and homicide units. He also served as a patrol and plainclothes officer in Mattapan, and was assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force, the department’s antigang unit.
He was born and raised in Dorchester, a graduate of Boston Latin School, and earned a law degree from New England School of Law.
Internal affairs records the Globe had already obtained show he had faced at least two internal affairs probes. In 2004, Long and several other officers were accused of improper use of force, though the case was later determined unfounded, or not proven. Long faced another administrative inquiry in 2013 for allegedly being disrespectful, although the charge was also determined unfounded following an investigation.
Many of the reforms recommended last year by a Boston Police Reform Task Force have not been enacted, well past April’s six-month deadline. When the City Council held a hearing in March to measure the administration’s progress, no one showed up: Police brass instead sent a letter.
And earlier this month, Long joined other department leaders to defend the police during a City Council hearing over the department’s budget, refusing to guarantee the savings in overtime pay that councilors want to see in the next fiscal year’s spending plan. Instead, police commanders under Long requested more officers, saying injuries among current officers are already making it difficult to keep the department fully staffed.
City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who has pushed for several police reforms over the last year, said Long has had less of a public image than his predecessors, and focused more on the operations of the department. Arroyo, who has not met Long, attributed the difference to a “management style” that may have its own benefits. “He’s largely been someone who has kept the [department] running without being the face and public profile for the organization,” he said.
But, Arroyo added, “It’s certainly important that as we look toward changing the culture, reforming the process, that there’s a commissioner there that not only supports that but is also working toward those goals, and is working toward those goals in a public way.”
Long has not said publicly whether he would seek the post full term. Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who is looking to fire White based on Friday’s report, said she would set up an in-depth search for a new commissioner.