Gross, rumored as mayoral candidate, didn’t register to vote in Hub until October 2019
Outgoing Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, who personally only spent about half of his tenure in compliance with the city’s residency requirement, appears to have set an example for a department that has frequently struggled to remain compliant.
Gross suddenly announced his retirement from the force with a one-day notice on Thursday morning amid speculation that he could be preparing to throw his oversized hat into the mayoral ring.
Gross is a 37-year veteran on the Boston police force. For the first 10 years of service, Boston police must live within the city limits. Like many of his fellow officers, Gross eventually went suburban and moved south of the border to Milton.
He was legally allowed to remain outside the city until 2018, when he was appointed to be Boston’s top cop. After which he appears to have maintained two homes—one in Boston in addition to his Milton home. According to public records, he is not the owner of either property, so it is unclear at which address he most frequently laid his head.
By the time Gross was named commissioner, he had been living in Milton for many years, according to a decade of the city’s annual earnings reports for the police department. As recently as September 2018, Gross told the Patriot Ledger that he was a Milton resident.
Boston Municipal Code 5-5.3 mandates that all sworn members of the police command staff live in the City of Boston. Specifically, they must be both a resident and registered voter in the city within six months after the job.
Gross assumed office, becoming the city’s first Black police commissioner, on Aug 6, 2018. But he did not register to vote in the city until Oct 24, 2019 according to the city’s Elections Department.
Gross’s delinquency is not exclusive to the department. There are frequently a few dozen in the BPD who cannot get their compliance paperwork in each year, according to Eileen Boyle, who sits on the city’s Residency Compliance Commission.
“Every year, we have a list of people that don’t get their paperwork in. We chase them all year long,” Boyle said. “I kind of put it on the department heads themselves. They are the ones that seem to not be able to rally their employees to get the work done.”
Historically, the fire and police departments tend to have comparable numbers of delinquent employees, but that changed in mid-2020 when a new BFD union president took office. Just weeks after John Soares became the new union head, he was able to get the department back into compliance, according to Boyle.
“He was handed the list of firefighters that had not come in with their paperwork. There were like 20 of them,” Boyle said. “He contacted each one and said, ‘Get your paperwork in today,’ and they did. That is leadership.”
Boston cops had to remain city residents the entire time they were employed. That changed in 2010 as part of the city’s contract negotiations with the police union that limited the requirement to police with less than 10 years of service under their belts.
“You’re not looking for every single police officer,” Boyle said. “Whoever is in charge in the police department is not keeping up with this.”
The BPD failed to respond to a request for comment. The Mayor’s press office also failed to respond when asked if the mayor was aware of Gross’ non-compliance.
Mayor Marty Walsh appointed Superintendent Dennis White to replace his boss. White, who is another suburbanite, currently lives in Randolph, according to the city’s latest earnings report.
He has six months to fix that.