Boston’s new police commissioner is a Black man who has been beaten by fellow officers 

Michael A. Cox Sr. has been described as a “very somber, very straight-down-the-middle,” almost professorial officer.

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Michael A. Cox Sr., a former Boston police officer who was once beaten by a group of fellow officers, has been named commissioner of the department. 

According to The New York Times, the beating occurred in January 1995 after Cox — dressed in plain clothes — was mistaken for a homicide suspect following a high-speed chase. When his attackers discovered that he was a fellow officer, they left him unconscious and bleeding in the street. 

Cox sued and eventually was paid $1.25 million in damages and legal fees after four years of fighting the department and enduring isolation and harassment. Three officers facing civil liabilities associated with the attack were fired, though one was reinstated after arbitration.

When introduced as the city’s new police commissioner last week, Cox told the audience that the beating that left him with kidney damage, a concussion and post-traumatic symptoms was “no different than incidents that have happened throughout the country to Black and brown people in general.”

Michael Cox, who has been named as the next Boston police commissioner, faces reporters during a news conference, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“After this incident happened, I had a choice — either quit or stay, and I chose to stay, because I believe in policing in a community-friendly way,” said Cox, who in his lawsuit claimed that he had been assaulted by fellow officers on three other occasions while out of uniform. “And I know the men and women that I work with believe in that same thing, too.”

The community seems ready to welcome Cox back. “It’s — what do you call it — poetic justice,” William E. Dickerson II, senior pastor of Greater Love Tabernacle told The Times. He served on the search committee that recommended candidates for the job. “We are not going to be defined by our past,” he said. “But we are not going to ignore our past, either. Because it is inextricably bound to who we are.”

The 57-year-old top cop was described by community activist Jamarhl Crawford as a “very somber, very straight-down-the-middle,” almost professorial officer, according to The Times. After the 1995 beating, Cox worked for 15 years in the department’s command staff, including roles in Internal Affairs and Operations and overseeing the Boston Police Academy. He later moved away, becoming police chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2019.

He returns, The Times reports, to head a department that is in some ways stuck in the past. For instance, the department is more than 60% white, while the white population of the city is 44%. The code of silence that prevented Cox from getting justice in the criminal courts is also still in place, as is a powerful police union that holds sway over disciplinary protocols.

Cox was appointed by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who rode into office last year with a promise to change the city’s entrenched and insular power centers, particularly the BPD. 

“In many ways, this was a pivotal experience in Boston’s history,” Wu said of Cox’s past, confronting the city with “such a stark example of how broken the system is, and how seemingly common this experience could be.”

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