There's A Helluva Story Behind Boston's New Black Police Commissioner

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Michael Cox, who has been named as the next Boston police commissioner, faces reporters during a news conference, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Cox, who was beaten more than 25 years ago by colleagues who mistook him for a suspect in a fatal shooting, served in multiple roles with the Boston Police Department before becoming the police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2019.
Michael Cox, who has been named as the next Boston police commissioner, faces reporters during a news conference, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Cox, who was beaten more than 25 years ago by colleagues who mistook him for a suspect in a fatal shooting, served in multiple roles with the Boston Police Department before becoming the police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2019.

Back in 1995, a group of Boston cops jumped a Black man dressed in street clothes in an alley in the city’s Mattapan neighborhood, a diverse corner of the city that was rife with gang violence back then, and beat him until he passed out.

The guy on the receiving end, Michael Cox, was one of their own, a cop born and raised in Boston who had cornered a murder suspect in the alley. The mollywhopping he took from his brothers in blue actually allowed the suspect to get away. Cox ended up suing the Boston Police Department for civil rights violations in the incident, which his superiors tried to cover up and the police union that he was a member of worked to protect the cops who beat him.

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Today, Cox was named Boston’s police commissioner, taking the helm of the same department that did him dirty 27 years ago. He will be Boston’s third Black commissioner in history.

The second one, Dennis White, was just appointed in early 2021 but was canned by then-Mayor Kim Janey—Boston’s first Black and first woman mayor—a few days later over domestic violence accusations that he had never answered for. White had replaced William Gross, Boston’s first Black police commissioner, who served from 2018 until he retired in January of last year.

If you’re still following, it gets better. Cox was appointed by Mayor Michelle Wu, the city’s second nonwhite woman to hold that job. Wu was under pressure from inside the department and from Boston residents to find a new commissioner that the locals trusted, especially after Boston Police were caught flat-footed over the Independence Day weekend when about 100 masked white supremacists assaulted a Black man while marching through the city’s downtown. (I told y’all after that happened just how a bad look that was for a city that’s been trying for two decades to convince itself, and everybody else, that it’s not actually racist).

One last detail that’s just the icing on the cake. The man Cox was chasing back in 1995 before he got beat up by his coworkers? He was eventually arrested, tried for and acquitted of murder. But that’s not the best part: he took the stand on Cox’s behalf in the federal civil rights lawsuit that Cox filed.

Cox, 57, first joined the Boston Police Department in 1989 but has been chief of police in Ann Arbor, Mich., since 2019. He takes the helm next month.

And oh, yeah: some of the cops that beat him up in January 1995 are still on the force. They work for him now.