Democrats criticize police commissioner’s meeting with Barr – Lowell Sun
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, left, met with Boston Police Commissioner William Gross on Thursday, June 18, 2020. (Courtesy of The Department of Justice)


BOSTON (AP) — Boston’s first black police commissioner is defending his recent meeting with U.S. Attorney General William Barr after the mayor and other elected leaders in Massachusetts raised objections.

Commissioner William Gross said Thursday’s meeting at police headquarters was an “opportunity to educate” the head of the Department of Justice about police training, community relations and the need for national changes. He said Barr’s office requested the visit to discuss policing issues and observe the department’s operations.

“You never ever run and hide from a conversation,” Gross said, strongly defending the meeting at a news conference Thursday night. “I spoke for the people in Boston today to a top official in D.C. that I thought needed to hear the message from a black man — from a proud police commissioner.”

Barr’s office on Thursday tweeted a picture of Barr and Gross together, smiling, and thanked the commissioner for his “wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice.” The caption also said it was the first time a sitting U.S. attorney general had visited the department.

Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, denounced Barr and Republican President Donald Trump’s administration as criticism of the meeting grew on social media, but he stopped short of directly rebuking his top cop.

Walsh tweeted that Barr and President Trump “do not share Boston’s values or my values,” which include “justice and equity, and protecting everyone in our community.”

“His actions and general lack of respect for people and their rights are a danger to our city and the future of our country,” said Walsh, who has declared racism a public health crisis and proposed cutting $12 million from the police budget to use for social service programs.

Samantha Ormsby, Walsh’s spokeswoman, added Friday that the mayor had been aware of Barr’s request and advised the commissioner against meeting with him.

“However, as Police Commissioner, Willie Gross is welcome to meet with whoever he chooses at the end of the day,” she said in an email.

It’s not clear if the nation’s top prosecutor had other business in Boston. U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, who was appointed by Trump, said his office didn’t meet with Barr, and the Justice Department did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley was among the leading Democrats who slammed the meeting Thursday.

“Let’s skip the pleasantries,” the Boston Democrat tweeted. “Next time you set foot in my district I demand a face to face meeting where you look me in the eye and explain why you tear gassed peaceful protesters. Understood?”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted: “We are in court against Bill Barr constantly, and I can tell you this man does not care about justice or the people of Boston.”

City Councilor Michelle Wu called the meeting a “disgrace” and a “breach of trust to our communities.”

And Councilor Andrea Campbell retweeted the photo of the meeting, adding: “Defund whatever the hell this is.”