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‘A day full of hope’: Michael Cox sworn in as Boston’s new police commissioner

Mayor Michelle Wu congratulated Michael A. Cox after swearing him in as Boston’s new police commissioner.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Michael A. Cox was sworn in as Boston’s police commissioner Monday, marking a dramatic return to lead a department that mistreated him decades ago.

Cox, 57, worked for the Boston police for 30 years before becoming chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department in Michigan in 2019.

Mayor Michelle Wu told the crowd on City Hall Plaza that the new commissioner would be someone who loves and understands the city and its Police Department but also has a clear vision of how it needs to change. She recalled the first moments of her first interview with Cox during the commissioner search process.


“Immediately I had a feeling settle in my chest that we might have done the impossible, because I had been told that it would be impossible to find someone who could embody all the qualities that Boston was looking for in our police commissioner in this moment,” she said.

Wu then administered the oath while Cox’s family huddled around the pair, and Cox’s wife, Dr. Kimberly Cox, put his new badge around his neck.

In his remarks, Cox reflected on the theme of resilience, and how important the trait will be for him and for the department as it undertakes a bold “reimaging” of policing.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” he said. “And with all great opportunities comes great responsibility, and I look forward to making sure I live up to that responsibility.”

Cox said that, despite looking “somber” because he was on the verge of tears, Monday was a day “full of hope.”

The emotion came from Cox and his family’s long history in Boston. Born to parents who fled unjust laws and law enforcement in the Jim Crow South, Cox said, he took up the badge to serve others.

He acknowledged that the department has not always upheld its high standards.


“The department has, from time to time, failed,” Cox said. “It’s stumbled and fallen occasionally throughout history. But the department, like many of us, has actually gotten up and tried to find a path forward.”

Few people know that better than Cox.

In 1995, when Cox was a member of the Boston police gang unit, he was beaten unconscious by fellow officers who mistook him for a murder suspect. For years, the department tried to cover it up, with nearly two dozen officers denying they saw the attack at all.

Cox said Monday that while the incident has shaped who he is, it does not define him.

“I’ve worked to change policing since that incident occurred, and I will continue to do all I can to make sure that no Black or brown person, or any individual, no matter their gender identity or race, is a victim of any kind of unconstitutional policing,” he said.

He returns to lead the Boston force at a pivotal moment for a police force that faces widespread calls for reform from community leaders, activists, and Wu herself.

Cox becomes the department’s third Black commissioner. He immediately will confront the challenge of carrying out reforms while maintaining the good will of a 1,600-member-strong force known for resisting change.

On Monday, Cox praised the work of the department’s officers and said that the force would reimagine policing, “but reimagine it in a way different than maybe some of the rhetoric you might’ve heard.”


The new commissioner said the changes would come from listening to the community and his officers.

“I have great hope that we will do quite well, because I have great hope in the men and women that do this job,” he said.

The department has been without a full-time leader for more than a year. Previous commissioner Dennis White was placed on leave two days after being appointed by former mayor Martin J. Walsh, following a Globe investigation into allegations that White had been accused of domestic abuse. White was later fired and Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long has served as acting commissioner since February 2021.

Cox closed his remarks with an appeal to the public.

“I ask everyone who loves this city to please join us in helping move the Boston Police Department forward,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll see me out on the streets. Feel free to say hello to me, but more importantly say hello to our officers. They need that hello.”

Alexander Thompson can be reached at alexander.thompson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson