I have a major issue with Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins. I believe that this new District Attorney – an elected position whose job it is to be the chief prosecutor for Suffolk County – is acting in ways that are contrary to the responsibilities of that office, and contrary to the interests of public safety.
Before I explain why, a little primer on the operational structure of the criminal court system in Massachusetts: Courts in Massachusetts, both District Courts and Superior Courts, are organized by county. There are 14 counties in this state, running from Berkshire County, Hampshire County and Hampden County in western-most part of the state, to Barnstable County, Dukes County and Nantucket Counties in the eastern-most parts of the state. These counties vary in size and political demographics, with Middlesex County having the largest population (approximately 1,500,000) and Nantucket County the smallest population (approximately 10,000).
Criminal cases in each county are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office in that county. While those cases are in everyday practice prosecuted by dozens of appointed Assistant District Attorneys in each county, the District Attorney is an elected position: He or she is, whether they like to say so or not, a politician who runs for elected office. The DA is the chief prosecutor in each county, even though almost none of the elected DA’s actually tries cases in court. Nonetheless, each elected DA is the figurehead for that particular county District Attorney’s office. Their job responsibility is singular: Prosecute persons who have either been arrested, indicted, or otherwise charged with criminal offenses in that county. Their jobs are to ensure public safety and public order. Indeed, reflecting this public responsibility, they are by state statute considered law enforcement officers.