Dennis A. White, the commissioner of the Boston Police Department, was put on leave Wednesday — just two days after he was sworn in — as allegations of past domestic abuse prompted the city to begin an investigation.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh placed Mr. White, 59, on leave after The Boston Globe inquired about allegations of domestic violence involving Mr. White and his former wife in 1999.
The newspaper cited court documents showing that a judge had issued a restraining order against Mr. White, and that his wife had accused him of pushing and hitting her once. The Globe reported that court documents also showed that Mr. White had denied the allegations and that it could not find evidence that he had been charged with a crime. The couple divorced.
“Upon learning of these serious allegations, I immediately acted, placing the commissioner on administrative leave, while corporation counsel engages outside counsel to conduct a full and impartial investigation,” Mr. Walsh said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Mr. White, who has worked for the Boston Police for more than three decades, was previously a police superintendent and the chief of staff for Police Commissioner William Gross, who abruptly announced on Thursday that he would retire on Friday.
Mr. Walsh, who has been nominated to be President Biden’s labor secretary, acknowledged that Mr. White’s transition from superintendent to commissioner had been fast.
“In an attempt to create a smooth transition and honor former Commissioner Gross’s desire to spend time with his family, Dennis White was asked to quickly step into the role of Police Commissioner, beginning last Friday,” Mr. Walsh said in his statement. “These disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been at the forefront.”
Mr. White could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a spokesman for the Boston police, deferred to the mayor’s statement and declined to comment further.
Tamsin Kaplan, the lawyer hired by the city’s corporation counsel to conduct the investigation into the allegations, declined to comment on them. It was unclear how long the investigation would take.
Mr. White was the second Black man to lead the police force in Boston; the first was Mr. Gross. At the swearing-in ceremony Monday, the mayor called Mr. White “a seasoned and well-respected veteran of the Boston Police Department, having served the community for 32 years.” In a speech, Mr. White promised to prioritize reform and community engagement.
The Globe’s inquiry into Mr. White’s past came in the context of a series of investigations into the Boston police. The newspaper has reported on racial inequities within the department, as well as a lack of accountability for officers who break rules or laws.
“This is bigger than the administration’s failure to properly vet a candidate to lead our Police Department,” Andrea Campbell, a city councilor who is running for mayor, said in a statement on Thursday. “The systemic lack of accountability for wrongdoing and transparency in B.P.D. is a trend.”
“Every possible incident of domestic violence is a big deal,” said Annissa Essaibi-George, another city councilor who is running for mayor. “There are no exceptions. We deserve to know that the leaders we trust to keep our community safe can live up to the highest possible standard in their own lives.”
The Boston Police Department’s superintendent-in-chief, Gregory Long, was appointed Wednesday to serve as acting commissioner.
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.