Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rollins reflects on first year in office

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks with reporters Monday about her first year in office. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks with reporters Monday about her first year in office. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Rachael Rollins described her first year as the state's top federal prosecutor as "bumpy" and said she hopes the investigation into her conduct will not be a distraction from the work of the Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office.

Rollins said she is "still learning the system" in her transition from Suffolk County district attorney to the state's U.S. attorney.

"I certainly think any time there's an investigation into anyone — and I've been the chief law enforcement officer in two different roles — it impacts you for sure," Rollins said during a media roundtable at her office Monday. "For me, my only regret is that this office that has done tremendous work; I don't want them distracted by what is what is happening with respect to me."

Rollins said she couldn't comment about the investigation which, according to media reports, is focused on her attendance at a Democratic fundraiser that featured First Lady Jill Biden. She said she will discuss the issues involved once the investigation is completed.

Rollins was asked about the two separate so-called "pattern or practice" federal civil rights investigations into municipal police departments in Worcester and Springfield. She said she hoped her office's scrutiny would lead to improvements.

Rollins announced last month that her office had begun its civil investigation of the Worcester Police Department to determine if there were patterns of excessive force or discriminatory policing based on race or sex.

In April, the U.S. attorney reached a consent decree with Springfield police over allegations of excessive force in the department's narcotics unit. The decree requires the Springfield police to improve its use-of-force policies and disciplinary rules for officers who violate those rules.

"My hope is that we can learn from this and everyone can improve," Rollins said.

A major accomplishment Rollins cited was the creation of a separate unit to handle civil rights and human trafficking cases. Three full-time attorneys are dedicated to the unit to investigate crimes Rollins described as "modern-day slavery." She said the office has brought charges in 10 human trafficking cases over the past year.

As for the new year, Rollins said she will keep focusing on efforts to fight human trafficking, drug trafficking and gun violence. She said she hopes there will be "some movement" in the investigation of the 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She added she is putting "new eyes" on the heist case.

"It is something that has marked our community," Rollins said. "It's important for people to know we haven't forgotten that that happened. And we are going to be looking to see if we can get answers or certainly find the artwork at some point."


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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