Brittany's Beat: Hug thugs, don't handcuff them

Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins released a 65-page memo on Monday outlining her controversial campaign promises to not prosecute misdemeanors or low-level felonies.

During her campaign, Rollins assured voters she would not prosecute crimes such as breaking and entering, trespassing, drug possession, shoplifting, and resisting arrest.

The “Rollins Memo” comes a week after the ACLU called on Rollins to implement her campaign pledge of not prosecuting 15 misdemeanors and low-level felonies.

“I don’t believe accountability has to equal incarceration,” Rollins said. “There are many ways we can hold people accountable without putting them in jail.”

In other words, she’s letting dangerous criminals stay on our streets and in our neighborhoods. Rollins is openly siding with criminals over law-abiding citizens. By not taking these criminals to court, the crime rate in Suffolk County—which encompasses the city of Boston—will skyrocket.

How will this affect our police departments and law enforcement officers? A police officer who asked to remain anonymous said, “Until I get written guidelines on how to proceed from here from my chief, I’m doing everything the exact same way.”

He added: “It’s business as usual until I’m told otherwise.”

Police officers take an oath and swear to uphold the law. This begs the question: Is this a violation of the 14th Amendment? Rollins is publicly treating some criminals—including crimes committed by illegal immigrants—differently than other U.S. citizens. Her actions are not only immoral and discriminatory, but illegal.

Officers that I have spoken to say they will continue to arrest people for the crimes Rollins says she won’t prosecute. If it goes to court and she declines to go forward with the charges and something bad happens with that same criminal, the blood will be on the DA’s hands—not the police.

A retired police officer expressed concern about Rollins’ memo.

“She’s putting the lives of many law enforcement officers in peril,” he said.

In recent months, Rollins has been rightly criticized by many groups including the National Police Association. The NPA accuses the Suffolk DA of “reckless disregard” of Massachusetts law.

"By openly declaring that certain laws will not be prosecuted if violated, Rollins has incited, and in-effect, authorized certain illegal conduct that runs contrary to law," said Ed Hutchinson, president of the NPA, in a complaint to the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Hutchinson is right: Rollins is being reckless. She’s playing with police officers’ lives as well as other residents’ lives. This isn’t a black or white issue, it’s a public safety issue. Race has nothing to do with it.

“She has shown the police and public that impartiality and a non-biased approach of prosecuting offenders for the reasons of safety and justice, take a back seat to community activism,” said a Boston police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “And her own personal pursuit of keeping offenders from prosecution based solely on skin color.”

Her memo also discusses a Discharge Integrity Team, which has been launched to assist her in a review of fatal police-involved shootings. The panel will meet “at least” monthly and with the DA.

In late February, there was an officer-involved shooting in Roxbury. Kasim Kahrim, 36, was killed in gunfire exchange that also left a Boston police officer wounded with multiple gunshots. In March, Rollins introduced DIT, and launched an investigation into the Roxbury officer-involved shooting.

“I want to assure the people of Boston and Suffolk County that I will be conducting an independent investigation into this incident and it will be full, fair, thorough, and impartial," she said. In addition, she expressed “deep sadness” and “sympathy” for Kahrim’s family.

“I also want to express my deep sadness and sympathies for the family and loved ones of the man whose life was lost. They, too, are undoubtedly in shock at circumstances beyond their control,” Rollins said.

Rollins should be ashamed. She took an oath to protect members of the community, not criminals such as Kahrim.

Rollins will have a series of public hearings starting Thursday at 6 PM at the Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. I encourage all concerned Suffolk County residents to voice their opinions and speak out. After all, it’s your streets and neighborhoods that will be affected.

-Brittany Jennings is the executive producer of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston weekdays 6-10 AM.

 
Brittany Jennings

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