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Rollins’ comments about Walsh were candid, not impolitic

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins spoke during a press conference.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Rachael Rollins has never been one to bite her tongue, or to worry about fallout from her public comments.

So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that when the Suffolk district attorney was asked about the controversy over former police Commissioner Dennis White, she said exactly what she thinks.

And what she thinks couldn’t have gone over well with Marty Walsh.

Appearing on Channel 5′s Sunday political show “On The Record” last weekend, she was asked whether she believed the former mayor when he said he did not know White had been accused of domestic violence when he picked him to lead the department.


“Either [Walsh] knew about it and he’s lying, or he didn’t know about it, and you’re a terrible manager.”

Rollins isn’t letting up either. She tweeted this on Tuesday morning: “This unforced error...has distracted attention from the hard work BPD does in our communities every day.”

She added: “Being silent and meek isn’t in my job description. We have murders to solve.”

Not for the first time in her tenure, Rollins has been accused of picking a fight she could have passed on. But honestly, the idea that Walsh knew, or should have known, what was in White’s personnel file seems to me to go without saying.

White was fired earlier this month by Acting Mayor Kim Janey after a review by an outside counsel found that there had been not one, but two accusations of violence against women — one of them his first wife — both dating back to the 1990s. White has said he was unfairly accused and that the accusations were never substantiated.

There’s simply no question that Walsh acted irresponsibly in appointing White commissioner with no search process, no vetting of any kind, no nothing. It was no way to fill arguably the second most important job in city government.


And as we are all now witnessing, the cost of getting it wrong is considerable.

Yet Rollins is the one being accused of being injudicious. Seriously? She is facing some heat partly because she is currently a finalist for the vacant US attorney’s job here — and bashing Walsh is viewed as impolitic at best, and seriously damaging to her chances at worst, given Walsh’s warm relationship with President Biden.

As far as I’m concerned, it is to Rollins’ credit that she has never been willing to hold back about problems in the Boston Police Department. Every Suffolk DA has talked about the arm’s-length relationship they maintain with the Police Department, but no one in my memory has staked out their independence in the way that Rollins has.

How the White mess will ultimately be resolved is anyone’s guess. While he was bounced from the department, he clearly has been laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against the city. His claim, essentially, seems to be that he was fired for events the city had known about for more than 20 years. And while that argument didn’t save his job, it could find a more receptive audience in a courtroom.

From a distance, Rollins might look like she is feuding with Walsh, but I don’t think that’s the case. They have enjoyed a good working relationship, albeit with the strains that come in any relationship between powerful people.

Rollins is simply incapable of not speaking her mind. That’s not always a great quality in a politician — but one of her greatest strengths is her refusal to approach the job like a politician. Any competent politician can convincingly fake authenticity. Rollins is genuinely authentic. She’s also on the right side of this controversy.


Thus far, the problems of the BPD don’t seem to have any traction in Washington. No one there seems to care very much that Walsh left a colossal mess on his way out the door in Boston.

It would be shocking if the lone person politically damaged by this is Rollins, whose only offense was telling the truth.

Walsh made a debacle of his last major decision. Why is that something polite colleagues aren’t supposed to say?

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @Adrian_Walker.