Amid a debate over police reform in Massachusetts and around the country, the commissioner of the Boston Police Department met Thursday with U.S. Attorney General William Barr in Boston.
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, who was criticized by a member of the Boston City Council for taking the meeting, explained to reporters Thursday evening that he used it to explain to Barr his perspective on the national police reform movement as a Black man and as a police commissioner.
A spokeswoman for Barr had tweeted a photo of the attorney general with Gross early Thursday afternoon and said the two met earlier in the day.
"Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a U.S. Attorney General had visited Boston PD," Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted along with a photo of the two men in front of a flag display. "Thank you, Comm. Gross, for your wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice."
Boston City Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu called Barr's visit a "disgrace" over Justice Department policies she called racist.
Gross called a news conference at 6:30 p.m. and hit out at his critics on Twitter, whom he didn't name, saying, that having the meeting didn't mean he endorsed Barr's policies and that he bragged to Barr about Boston, from its police to its politicians to its people.
"I know the controversy betwixt Democrats and Republicans, but I know this too: people are dying out there, civilians police," Gross said. "You never ever run and hide from a conversation but you're supposed to have hard conversations when it is affecting the lives of the people of your community."
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The commissioner went through the subjects he discussed with Barr, including police reform and transparency, how the police killing George Floyd set law enforcement back decades, the law enforcement certification bill recently proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker, the history of oppression of Black people throughout the country and more.
"If nothing's changed from then till now, people are going to shout, 'Our lives matter, Black lives matter.' It doesn't mean that they're militant," Gross said.
He also blamed the unrest in Boston after a peaceful demonstration on an anarchist group that has an agenda. And he said that Mayor Marty Walsh "had nothing to do" with the meeting, but understands that Gross is willing to talk with anyone about issues affecting the city.
Walsh had said during an early afternoon news conference that he didn't know what the meeting was about.
Barr recently came under fire for his involvement in clearing the park outside the White House of protesters so President Donald Trump could address the press in front of a nearby church.
The attorney general's visit marks at least the second time in the last week that a member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet visited Boston. Last Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar toured operations at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
Colin A. Young of the State House News Service contributed to this report.