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In Dennis White litigation, federal judge sides with Janey regarding discrimination claims

Dennis White, the former Boston police commissioner.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/file

A federal judge this week found that Dennis White, the former Boston police commissioner who was fired last year after domestic violence allegations resurfaced, has failed to support his claims that his termination by then-Acting Mayor Kim Janey was discriminatory in nature.

In a Tuesday order, Judge Leo T. Sorokin said, “[T]he Court finds that White has not alleged facts that would plausibly support an inference that Janey terminated White because of his race or his gender.”

Janey fired White last June, ending months of chaos atop the department sparked by the reemergence of decades-old domestic abuse allegations against him shortly after he took the job in February 2021. The department has effectively been without a permanent commissioner for more than year because of the White debacle.


In announcing White’s full removal from the nation’s oldest police force, Janey cited White’s own statements in which he admitted to pushing and hitting members of his household. She said the allegations and evidence raised serious questions about his fitness to lead Boston police.

Sworn in in February 2021, White served in the role for only two days before the mayor at the time, Martin J. Walsh, placed him on leave following a Globe inquiry into past domestic violence allegations.

White was accused in 1999 of striking and threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer, as well as of hitting a 19-year-old woman in a separate incident in 1993. White has denied any wrongdoing.

Following his termination, White, who is Black, alleged gender and race discrimination in federal litigation last summer.

But this week, Sorokin, the federal judge, found that White did not “plausibly allege any facts supporting an inference that Janey (or the City) directly exhibited discriminatory animus and targeted White based on his race or his gender.”

White’s federal case against Janey and the city continues. In his Tuesday order, Sorokin ruled on White’s attempts to amend his complaint by adding a raft of claims.


One of his claims dealt with due process. White alleges that he was entitled to a public and evidentiary name-clearing hearing, which he asserts the city failed to provide. Sorokin is now giving White two weeks to show why that claim “is not subject to dismissal.” The judge is giving the defendants a week to respond to White’s filing.

The fallout from White’s firing continues to reverberate through the nation’s oldest police force. Since White was placed on leave last year, Gregory Long has served as acting head of the department.

Mayor Michelle Wu has launched a search for a permanent commissioner, a process that is ongoing. Whoever is chosen to lead Boston police will take charge of a department buffeted by scandal in recent years, from allegations of overtime fraud at an evidence warehouse to revelations that the department allowed an officer to continue to serve on the force for years after investigators determined in the mid-1990s he had more than likely molested a child.

Citing the ongoing litigation, Wu’s office declined to comment on the latest development in the White case Wednesday. Messages left with White’s attorneys were not immediately returned.

Janey became acting mayor last year when Walsh left City Hall to become the nation’s labor secretary. The White controversy was one of the more significant challenges Janey inherited when she moved from city council president to acting city executive.


Janey ran for a full mayoral term last year but was eliminated in last September’s primary. Wu won November’s general election and was sworn-in that same month.

As Janey’s predecessor, Walsh, prepared to leave office for Washington D.C., he hastily appointed White police commissioner without conducting any sort of vetting process. The subsequent political storm over White’s appointment trailed Walsh to President Biden’s Cabinet.

Last year, former police commissioner William Gross, who is White’s friend and predecessor as the department’s leader, said in an explosive court filing that Walsh knew about White’s internal affairs history before he appointed him to lead the force. White also released a sworn statement in which he recounted telling Walsh that he had been the subject of a restraining order when he was accused in the late 1990s of threatening to shoot his former wife.

Such statements directly contradicted Walsh, who insisted he did not know about the accusations detailed in the commissioner’s internal affairs history. Walsh’s account was backed up by another former police commissioner, William Evans.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him @Danny__McDonald.