BOSTON — A veteran Boston police officer who was beaten more than 25 years ago by colleagues who mistook him for a suspect in a fatal shooting has been selected to lead the department.
Mayor Michelle Wu on Wednesday announced Michael Cox as the 44th commissioner of the Boston Police Department. Boston 25 News was the first to report Wu’s decision to appoint Cox.
Wu described Cox as “a leader of great integrity who takes leadership very seriously.”
“Having grown up here, having served in many roles within the Boston Police Department and roles elsewhere, Chief Cox is uniquely positioned to build the public safety infrastructure that Boston deserves,” Wu said during a news conference. “He will continue building on the community trust and community policing that our city has led on for decades.”
Cox told reporters that his appointment is an “emotional moment” for him. He 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.
“I want to thank Mayor Wu for the opportunity to come back home and serve the citizens of Boston,” Cox said. “The Boston Police Department needs to look like the communities which we serve and include every resident to hear what is important so we can serve better. I took on public service because I wanted to help the public and give back to the communities in which I lived.”
Cox joined the Boston Police Department in 1989 and rose through the ranks to become superintendent of the Bureau of Professional Development. He was part of the Command Staff for 13 years before leaving in 2019 to become chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department in Michigan.
“I think this is a very exciting time. I think the officers need someone to support them,” Cox said. “And I’m going to their biggest cheerleader.”
Cox 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.
Cox said it was a “tough time,” but that he chose to stay in the department and improve things instead of walking away from a job he loved.
“Since then, in 1995, I have dedicated my life to making sure that both the Boston police department and policing in general has grown and learned … to make sure that we have structures and mechanisms in place to make sure that we never repeat that kind of incident against anyone,” Cox told reporters.
Cox also vowed to highlight great police work, use accountability to its fullest, do things in a different way, rely on community feedback, and serve the citizens of Boston well.
In a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said, “His record of service is exemplary, and I’m grateful to have him as a partner in efforts to improve safety and wellbeing across Boston’s neighborhoods. 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.”
Boston had been without a police commissioner since February 2021, when Dennis White served for two days before being placed on leave due to past allegations of domestic violence. Acting Mayor Kim Janey was set to name a replacement that May, but was stymied by a legal challenge by White.
Reporting from the Associated Press is included in this article.
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