The Rollins rule: play straight with me
DA calls out Baker administration moves
HERE IS ONE OFFENSE that clearly does not appear on Rachael Rollins’s “do not prosecute” list: A top official taking a tough swipe at her through the press without first raising the concerns with her directly.
For that, the recently-elected Suffolk County district attorney is ready to throw the book at any offender — and maybe a right hook as well.
The story here, of course, involves a letter raising concerns about Rollins’s plans for prosecuting certain crimes that the state public safety secretary, Thomas Turco, released to the press at the same that it was delivered to Rollins.
Rollins did not appreciate being blindsided by the move, and made that abundantly clear. She questioned whether a male DA would come in for the same treatment, and she defended her efforts to relieve the toll the criminal justice system exacts on minority communities by calling out the privilege she said families like Gov. Charlie Baker’s enjoy.
But it turned out she had quite a bit more to say the following day, when Rollins addressed a roomful of activists and fellow elected officials who rallied at a Dorchester hall to show their support for her.
She told them she would have had no problem with Turco and the governor’s administration had they raised their concerns with her directly. “We are allowed to disagree with each other, but what you are not going to do is disrespect this office,” she told the crowd. (No one can accuse Rollins — who has called in to Howie Carr’s radio show and appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson — of being unwilling to talk to those she doesn’t see eye to eye with.)
She likened the recent dust-up to a situation “when someone slaps you in the face, and thinks you’re going to turn away and cry, and you take your earrings off, roundhouse kick them in the face, and then punch them to the ground.”
Some have said Rollins committed an unusual breach of standard protocol by which political figures haggle things out behind closed doors. But that doesn’t get the picture quite right.
After all, it was the Baker administration that took the fight public by releasing Turco’s letter to the press at the same that it was delivered to Rollins. That kind of sharp-elbowed move may not be common, but it’s certainly not unheard of.
The real shock to the political culture came when Rollins didn’t return fire with some kind of carefully wordsmithed riposte, but instead came at Baker with a two-by-four. Suggesting not everyone enjoys the sort of privilege his family does — by injecting into the mix the case of Baker’s son, who was alleged to have groped a woman on a flight to Boston last year — caused people to stop in their tracks.
Rollins crossed a line that most think should not be breached by bringing a fellow elected official’s family into a debate. That muddied up her broader message — which is about racial disparities in how the criminal justice system treats people.
Rollins can be refreshingly blunt. Does that tendency sometimes get the better of her?
“I admit I could have handled things differently, too,” she told Globe columnist Kevin Cullen in reflecting on her Saturday phone call with Baker.
As a Globe editorial today says, there may be legitimate questions to debate about some details of Rollins’s approach, which she layed out in 65-page policy memo. But she made clear during her campaign the direction she was planning to take the office in — and some of those changes are, in fact, things her predecessor, Dan Conley, was already doing.Jumping on her without warning for spelling out those policies seemed like an effort “to nullify the Suffolk County district attorney’s race,” Peter Kadzis said in a new episode of WGBH’s podcast “The Scrum.”
Less than four months into her term, that doesn’t seem like a winning case.