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William Gross to be named No. 2 commander of Boston police

Boston police Superintendent William G. Gross, the department’s night commander who has also led the gang unit, will be named the force’s second-in-command as early as Thursday, officials said.

Two law enforcement officials briefed on the plans confirmed Gross’s promotion on Wednesday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the move publicly.

The historic appointment of Gross, a 30-year veteran of the force who is African American, will make him the department’s first black superintendent-in-chief. He will answer to Interim Commissioner William B. Evans, who will officially be become permanent commissioner on Thursday.

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Gross could not be reached on Wednesday night.

A police spokesman and an aide to Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who selected Evans for the top job, each declined to comment.

But several city councilors welcomed the news, including Councilor-at-Large Stephen J. Murphy, a former chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

“I think he’s a proven leader as a police manager,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a good choice by Commissioner Evans. I think together, the two of them respect one another, have years of service in managing the Police Department together, and as colleagues will work well for the department and the new mayor and his administration.”

Councilor Tito Jackson was also pleased.

“I’m very happy and excited about the appointment of William Gross as superintendent-in-chief,” said Jackson, whose district includes parts of Roxbury and Dorchester. “Willie has a stellar record of community engagement and outreach, and a sincere willingness to work with the community.”

Jackson added that Gross has “a strong background” in youth violence prevention and is “strongly committed to diversity and has worked to make sure that the Police Department reflects the community that it serves.”

The issue of diversity within the department became a flashpoint in the mayoral election, when the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers pledged to “vigorously oppose” any candidate who committed to retaining Evans’s predecessor, former Commissioner Edward F. Davis, if elected.

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Larry Ellison, a Boston detective and the association’s president, had accused Davis of bias in promotion decisions and meting out unfair discipline to officers of color, charges the former commissioner denied.

Ellison did not return calls seeking comment on Gross’s promotion.

Gross previously served as a deputy superintendent in charge of the zone that includes Roxbury, Dorchester, and South Boston, according to a biography posted on the department website. Other prior assignments have included heading the gang unit and supervising detectives and investigations in the Dorchester district.

Evans has long stated that he would make Gross his superintendent-in-chief if he were made commissioner, according to one of the officials who discussed the matter with the Globe. The other official said that after Evans got the commissioner’s job, he told Gross he planned to make him the second-in-command.

Gross will replace current Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel P. Linskey, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night. It was not immediately clear what his future plans are, though officials indicated that he intends to stay on in the department.

Councilor Matt O’Malley, who has served on the Public Safety Committee, added to the chorus of approval for Gross’s selection.

“It’s another stellar choice,” said O’Malley, whose district includes parts of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, adding that Gross “has been a terrific partner and a great resource. I think the team of Commissioner Evans and Chief Gross is really terrific.”

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Community leaders echoed those remarks.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with [Superintendent] Gross for the past eight years now, and he’s always been someone who I’ve felt has always had the best interests of the community at heart,” said Rufus Faulk, a program director with the Boston TenPoint Coalition, which works with at-risk youth to stem violence. “I know he’ll do a great job.”

Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, described Gross on Wednesday as an accessible police official.

“He has often extended his hand to work with the NAACP on issues of violence and a host of other issues,” Curry said. “We always enjoy working with him and look forward to working with him in the future.”

Curry sounded a hopeful note when asked how he felt Evans and Gross will work together in their new roles.

“From what I’ve heard, the new commissioner, I think, will be receptive to hearing from his leadership team,” Curry said. “And then Superintendent Gross, I’m sure, will attempt to move the BPD in the right direction with the commissioner, and we’ll work with him to do that.”


Andrew Ryan of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.