Embattled Boston top cop loses court bid to block firing

Police Commissioner Dennis White had sued after the mayor moved to fire him over decades-old abuse allegations


By Sean Philip Cotter
Boston Herald

BOSTON — A Suffolk Superior judge has rejected embattled Police Commissioner Dennis White's arguments and the city plans to move forward with firing him — though White's attorney immediately began to make new demands around the upcoming hearing to remove the top cop.

This undated photo shows Dennis White, who former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appointed as the 43rd Commissioner of the Boston Police Department.
This undated photo shows Dennis White, who former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appointed as the 43rd Commissioner of the Boston Police Department. (City of Boston via AP, File)

Judge Heidi Brieger wrote an eight-page decision on Tuesday denying White's request for a preliminary injunction to stop Acting Mayor Kim Janey from ousting him.

Brieger wrote that "it is unlikely that the Commissioner will prevail" in his argument that a pre-removal hearing would need to be before the court, rather than held by Janey.

One of the major factors in whether a preliminary injunction is granted is whether on first blush the argument in the lawsuit appears likely to succeed.

Janey attempted to fire White two weeks ago as she released an independent report about decades-old abuse allegations against White. But White sued before she held a hearing to remove him, arguing on multiple fronts what she couldn't do so.

Both sides stated their cases to Brieger last week about White's move for a preliminary injunction. Brieger's denial of the injunction doesn't end the case, but Janey's attorneys have said the acting mayor will move ahead with the firing if the injunction isn't granted.

Brieger wrote that she "agrees with the Acting Mayor" that the only type of hearing White is entitled to is one before Janey, in which he has a chance to try to rebut her reasons for firing him.

Janey said in a statement after the decision, "I applaud Judge Brieger's ruling to deny this motion and will inform Dennis White of his rescheduled Zoom hearing. It is time to move our City and the Boston Police Department forward."

It wasn't immediately clear how soon Janey will aim to hold the hearing.

White attorney Nick Carter said in a statement that "Commissioner White respects the court, and will be exercising his right of appeal," and the lawyer shared with the media a letter he said he sent to the city's attorneys. In it, he wrote that he demanded that any hearing require witnesses from the city, and that White be allowed to call his own.

"Those witnesses should be required to state on the record who they are, what they know, and the basis of their knowledge, and Dennis White should be afforded an opportunity to cross-examine them and to testify and present his own witnesses," Carter wrote. "This hearing should be public and on record with witnesses testifying under oath."

Janey's administration didn't immediately comment.

In the hearing last Thursday, Brieger suggested that there was little role for the court at this point in White's firing because he hasn't actually been fired yet — that there's no wrongful termination unless someone's terminated.

Brieger echoed that thought process in the decision on the preliminary injunction as she weighed whether there would be "irreparable harm" to White if she doesn't grant the injunction.

"If the Commissioner's removal is upon review found to be defective in some fashion, for example, if there was no meaningful hearing or there was insufficient cause, he can be compensated with money damages from lost earnings," she wrote.

White's lawyers had also argued that Janey didn't have cause to fire him, but Brieger had largely said that's no up to the courts at that juncture, and she didn't focus on that aspect in the decision.

(c)2021 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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