The swearing-in for the new district attorney for Suffolk County on Wednesday marked a historical moment for the office: Rachael Rollins is the first woman of color to ascend to the post.
She was heralded into the Roxbury Community College auditorium accompanied by her family, politicos and the song "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang.
Also standing for her were cops — a group who hasn't exactly championed some of the key points of her campaign, like declining to prosecute minor criminal offenses, which is something she says clogs up the justice system.
In her acceptance speech, Rollins mostly steered clear of policy. Instead, she said she wanted the DA's office to work with police to make justice more equitable.
“I have a lot of work to do with you guys and I know you guys are nervous,” she said to representatives of the police departments from Chelsea, Revere and Boston. “But guess what — nervousness is exactly what change needs. And it’s going to be OK.”
Before Rollins was sworn in, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross admitted some of what she said on the campaign trail gave him pause.
But he said he's optimistic following a conversation the two had a few days ago about what Rollins hopes to accomplish.
“One of the key things we talked about is that the community still deserves justice if crimes are committed,” Gross said. “What we talked about is for first offenders — there being diversion programs and ways to deter other than locking them up.”
Gross said that Rollins and police have a common goal: safety and justice for communities. And Rollins said despite what people think, she has a deep respect for law enforcement. She said police officers will be important for her success in office.
“We might not always agree, but I will absolutely sit with them and listen,” Rollins said. “They are a vital part of our process.”
Dorchester resident Natalie Gill-Mensah was one of the supporters who came to see Rollins' swearing-in. She said there was one part of Rollins’ inauguration speech that resonated with her most: when Rollins said “there’s no justice without accountability.”
“Especially across the police force,” Gill-Mensah said. “[Rollins] is about change. And I think there’s a lot of change that’s needed in order to create opportunities for justice, particularly in communities of color.”
Rollins said she wants to reduce the number of people sent to prison for smaller criminal violations and to send more addicts to treatment instead of jail. And to do that, she said, she needs the community’s help — including law enforcement.
This segment aired on January 3, 2019.