Rollins, Boston police union clash
Union reps rip DA comments on police killings
PROTESTS OVER THE police killing of George Floyd have exposed a deep divide in the country on race issues. That schism is now playing out within Boston’s law enforcement community.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who took office a year and a half ago with a vow that it would not be business as usual, has made good on her pledge. She’s challenged the status quo in lots of ways, tangling with judges who sought to encroach on her control over charging decisions for defendants and even mixing it up with a group that has been broadly supportive of her reform agenda — the state public defenders agency.
But none of it compares with the tensions now laid bare by the subject of race-based police brutality in America.
Rollins is part of a wave of reform-minded DAs who are upending the conventional role of prosecutors by raising basic questions about the fairness of the criminal justice system, in particular when it comes to issues of race. At the top of a pyramid that stacked up those concerns would be street level interactions where the hand of law enforcement is first felt and where fatal encounters like the killing of Floyd have unfolded with grim frequency in recent years.
Yesterday came the blowback.
“We write to condemn your reckless statements labelling all police officers ‘murderers,’ and the corresponding tweets that undoubtedly incited violence against the proud men and women of the Boston Police Department.” That was just the start of a letter to Rollins from leaders of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association ripping her for “slandering our officers.”
Rollins, in a statement issued last night, sought to defuse things by making clear she did not mean to paint all police officers with a broad brush. But her olive branch came complete with thorns that made clear her willingness to stand firm on the issue of police misconduct.
“I state unequivocally, my discontent is not with the overwhelming majority of police officers who serve our communities with dignity and pride, who are culturally competent and bring honor to the badge they wear,” she said. “No, my outrage is laser focused on the rogue few who believe that they can kill with impunity. And they have been empowered to do so by Mayors across the country that will not fire them and District Attorneys across the country that will not prosecute them. That stops now.”
Earlier on Tuesday, when the police union tweeted out its letter about the DA’s “incendiary and anti-Police remarks,” Rollins challenged the union to speak out on Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“You mean Anti-Police BRUTALITY,” she tweeted in response to the union message. “And did I somehow miss BPPA’s letter denouncing the murder of George Floyd and calling for the immediate termination and prosecution of the 4 police that murdered him and/or watched and did nothing while he died? White fragility is real people.”When Rollins appeared on the Codcast earlier this year to take stock of her first year in office, she said she speaks often to the police union president, despite their differences on issues, and has had long meetings with union leaders. (A new president has since taken the reins of the BPPA.)
A beer summit may be in order.