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Boston Names Its First Black Police Commissioner

As the Boston Police Department struggles to modernize and overcome accusations of entrenched racial bias, a 33-year veteran of the force has been named the city's first black police commissioner.

At a press conference on Monday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that William Gross would replace Commissioner William Evans, who is retiring.

Gross received national attention last year after he came out in support of counter-protesters who shut down a "free speech" rally that many worried would become a repeat of the infamous 2017 Charlottesville rally (where torch-bearing members of the alt-right violently clashed with protesters and police in Virginia).

A week after Charlottesville, Gross made off-the-cuff remarks to a group of anti-racism protesters at the event in Boston.

"They want to put us down because of what we look like, our lifestyles, where we came from. It's not happening in Boston," Gross said in front of reporters. Gross—who was, at that time, Boston's superintendent-in-chief—went on to tell the protesters he was proud of them.

Tamara Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the Associated Press that the rise of a person of color to a position of power is always reason for hope.

However, she said, she remained cautious in her optimism: "It's really not a win unless and until we are able to see evidence to suggest that Chief Gross—now Commissioner Gross—has been able to activate the power of his diversity and we'll know that by the direction the department goes in," Sullivan told the AP.