Boston's next police commissioner will be Ann Arbor, Michigan, Police Chief Michael Cox, a longtime veteran of the Boston Police Department.
Mayor Michelle Wu announced her pick on a playground Roxbury, where Cox grew up, after a monthslong search — the city's been without a police commissioner for more than a year.
The job is a homecoming for Cox, 57, a Boston native who served in multiple roles with the Boston Police Department before becoming the police chief in Ann Arbor in 2019. Cox will take the helm in Boston on Aug. 15, and aims to emphasize a community-focused approach.
"I want to give back to the communities in which I live, like so many other officers that I know," he said.
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Cox promised to work to diversify the police department -- which critics have long complained doesn't look enough like the city it serves -- and make sure officers feel supported in their job to protect the community.
Boston police officers will "reintroduce themselves to the public after this pandemic … in an equitable way, so that we make sure we never overpolice," he said.
Cox joined the Boston Police Department in 1989 and rose through the ranks over the years, becoming part of the command staff and running various units of the force.
Cox, who is Black, was working undercover in plainclothes in January 1995, when his fellow officers mistook him for a suspect in a fatal shooting and severely beat him. Cox was left bloody and beaten on the ground, and said the officers later tried to cover it up.
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Cox said it was hard, but he chose to stay in the department and improve things instead of walking away from a job he loved. He also noted that
Wu said she was impressed by Cox's experience and community-focused approach, and she called him "uniquely positioned to build the public safety infrastructure that our city deserves."
Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden, the city's top prosecutor, offered congratulations to Cox, calling his record "exemplary."
"The journey of Michael Cox from being beaten by fellow Boston Police officers to his appointment as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department is emblematic of criminal legal reform. I’m grateful to have such a strong partner in building a safer, more equitable Boston," Hayden said in a statement.
Soon after she was elected last year, Wu said she hoped to name a new police commissioner in early 2022. In January, the mayor appointed a five-member panel to lead the search for the next commissioner, which involved months of public input hearings and interviews.
Cox and Wu addressed a short suspension from the Ann Arbor police force in his first year there during an investigation into whether he created a hostile work environment.
It was the result of a misunderstanding, said Cox, who also blamed it on "a young police chief making some mistakes." Wu said the city looked into it during his extensive vetting and found no red flags from people in Ann Arbor, just recommendations and regret at the possibility of losing Cox.
"What I heard from them reinforces what we already know from his time in Boston, that he is a leader of great integrity," Wu said.
Boston has been without a top cop since last June. Former Mayor Kim Janey terminated Dennis White as the city's police commissioner over domestic violence accusations, which White denied. Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long has been acting as commissioner since then.
As of last week, the search was narrowed down to four candidates. Wu has said that the new commissioner would have to live in the city, among other requirements.