To understand the war that’s being waged on newly inaugurated Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, it helps to have seen the excited faces on police when the man she is replacing, Daniel Conley, walked into any room. From big city events to press conferences, Boston’s finest gushed and grinned, for in their DA they saw a man who caught their backs unconditionally. In his 16 years in the elected office, Conley never once found an officer to have done any wrong in a cop-involved killing—a trend including one case where a young woman was shot in the backseat of a car driving away from an officer. This as Conley’s gutless team of lawyers prosecuted cases built on stop-and-frisk arrests and other unscrupulous practices.
In running for the seat left vacant by Conley last year, Rollins noted that under her progressive leadership, several common petty charges—trespassing, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, others—would effectively be decriminalized, and with some exceptions either outright dismissed or treated as civil infractions. Her campaign pledges in this regard were based not on some demented hope of coddling criminals but rather on the general idea that trapping people in the so-called justice system for minor offenses hurts us all over the long term. So naturally, parties that support the status quo began to have a fit and have been throwing tantrums ever since. Culminating in the National Police Association filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Bar Association on Dec 23, weeks before Rollins was even sworn into office. An NPA press release alleged:
The Boston lawyer violated ethics rules when she campaigned for District Attorney representing to the public that Rollins, regardless of what laws were in place and regardless of the rule of law itself, would affirmatively enact policy changes that directly, adversely and will foreseeably impact the safety and well-being of those that she is soon charged to represent in her official capacity as District Attorney.
There are other fronts and theaters in the war on Rollins, including mainstream media, where reporters have already questioned the new DA more over the past couple of months than they did Conley about his decisions over nearly two decades in office. Is this sort of treatment racist? Of course it is. Only a bigot would deny it. But it’s also an assault on taxpayers, which will sadly be a more convincing argument to voters and newspaper readers in the influential outer throes of Suffolk County such as West Roxbury, Hyde Park, and Winthrop. Their reaction to the hyperventilation in the Caucasian establishment will help guide the future of the court system around here, and will impact whether Greater Boston forges ahead with reforms that experts who review actual data and most people who live in communities that are heavily impacted by crime are rallying for alongside Rollins. Or if the residents of these cities will roll on muddy tires as parties that profit off cyclical enslavement battle enlightened new measures by any means necessary, including violent ones.
I sure hope it is the former, because other than some Trump-supporting scoundrels and police who get paid lavishly to make appearances in court after arresting people on small crimes, I don’t know anybody else who thinks the legal system ought to regress. In Suffolk or anyplace else.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.