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DA Rollins rips Walsh over Dennis White appointment

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, in an interview that aired Sunday, criticized former Boston mayor and current US Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, calling the debacle of his appointment of now-fired police commissioner Dennis White “a bad situation overall.”

White, appointed by Walsh in the waning days of his mayoralty, was fired by Acting Mayor Kim Janey earlier this month, after decades-old domestic violence allegations against White surfaced. Walsh has vehemently denied knowing about the allegations against White before making the appointment.

During a Sunday airing of WCVB’s “On The Record,” Rollins said Walsh either “knew about it and is lying, or he didn’t know about it, and you’re a terrible manager.”

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“There was no vetting process in this,” said the county’s top prosecutor of Walsh choosing White to lead the nation’s oldest police force.

Former police commissioner William Gross, White’s predecessor and friend, has said in an affidavit that Walsh knew about White’s internal affairs history when Walsh appointed him to lead the force.

During her tenure as district attorney, Rollins has earned a reputation as an outspoken and progressive agent of reform unafraid to tangle with entrenched politicians. During her recent “On The Record” appearance, she reiterated her past assertion that Gross’s affidavit “trumps” Walsh’s statements, since Gross signed the court filing under the pains and penalties of perjury. Walsh’s statements have come with no such strings attached, she pointed out.

In announcing White’s full removal from the Boston Police Department earlier this month, Janey cited White’s own statements where he admitted to pushing and hitting members of his household. She said the allegations and evidence raised serious questions about his fitness to lead Boston police.

White was accused in 1999 of striking and threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer, as well as of hitting a 19-year-old woman in a separate incident in 1993.

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White has denied any wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. His attorney has said Janey “got this one wrong” and vowed to continue his legal battle against Janey and the city.

Sworn in in February, White served in the role for only two days before he was placed on leave following a Globe inquiry into past domestic violence allegations. The controversy brought chaos to the department’s leadership for months and rocked city politics.

Before he left for Washington, Walsh hired an independent investigator to probe White’s past. The results of that investigation, released in May, detailed an alleged pattern of domestic abuse by White and a culture of fear and coverup within the Police Department.

The scandal has already prompted change, with Janey saying she will require background checks for all BPD leadership positions and updating and bolstering the department’s domestic violence policy.

Janey has also said she will announce a committee of community residents, public safety advocates, and law enforcement officials to help define what the city wants from its police leadership.

Janey became acting mayor in March once Walsh left for his current role in President Biden’s Cabinet. She is now among six major candidates vying for a full mayoral term.

Rollins, meanwhile, in recent months has been rumored to be among the finalists to be nominated as the next US attorney for the district of Massachusetts. In the same WCVB interview, Rollins confirmed that she is one of three finalists under consideration for the job.

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The other two candidates, according to Rollins, both work in the US attorney’s office. She said the other contenders are Jennifer Serafyn, the chief of the civil rights unit in Boston, where she works on civil matters, and Deepika Bains Shukla, who heads the US attorney’s office in Springfield.

“I am so humbled and honored to be in that group,” Rollins said.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.