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City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to run for Suffolk district attorney

Boston City Councilor and former public defender Ricardo Arroyo announced his candidacy for Suffolk district attorney in Roslindale on Tuesday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, a former public defender who is known as a police reform stalwart on Boston’s legislative body, announced his run for Suffolk district attorney Tuesday morning.

Arroyo is the first candidate to formally enter the race to replace Rachael Rollins, who was sworn in last month as US attorney for Massachusetts. Flanked by city councilors, past and present, as well as pastors and community organizers, Arroyo pledged to build off of Rollins’s progressive reforms.

“We cannot afford to go backwards or stagnate. We must continue her reforms which have been proven to work and we must continue to move Suffolk County forward on criminal justice reform,” Arroyo said at a news conference in Roslindale.


“I’m committed to a system that reduces racial and class disparity and holds people accountable for harm while also offering healing or restoration for those impacted by the system,” he said.

“The success of any prosecutor depends on keeping people safe, I know that,” Arroyo added. “But that can be done without infringing on civil liberties, criminalizing people of color, or mistaking punishment for the only form of justice.”

A 34-year-old scion of a well-known political family in Boston, Arroyo made his announcement at a Roslindale plaza. Afterward, he planned to visit the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, which provides services to families of homicide victims, and Gavin House, which provides addiction recovery services.

Kevin Hayden, appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to complete Rollins’s term, which expires later this year, filed campaign paperwork on Jan. 28 with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. But he said last week on GBH’s “Greater Boston” he’s still mulling over whether to run for a full term.

Hayden previously worked in the office as an assistant district attorney from 1997 to 2008. Before his latest appointment, he had been chairman of the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board since 2015.


Arroyo, a Boston native who lives in Hyde Park, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and went to law school at Loyola University Chicago.

His father, Felix D. Arroyo, was the city’s first Latino councilor and currently serves as the Suffolk register of probate. Ricardo’s brother, Felix G. Arroyo, is a former city councilor and mayoral candidate who in 2017 was fired from his job as the city’s health and human services chief in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that he denies.

As a councilor, Ricardo Arroyo is known as a progressive, advocating for police reform with teeth, pushing to rein in overtime costs for the department, and calling for the dismantling of a controversial gang database used by Boston police.

He also helped spearhead legislation that changed the way police in Boston respond to crowd control situations. The City Council passed an ordinance restricting police in their use of chemical agents such as tear gas and projectiles like sponge rounds to control crowds. Then-acting mayor Kim Janey signed the measure into law last year.

At times, Arroyo has framed police accountability as an issue that is personal for him. At a news conference in front of the State House in 2020, Arroyo broke down in tears as he shared a police encounter he had as a teenager where a trooper pointed a gun at him during a vehicle stop, after Arroyo got lost after visiting Providence.


“In that moment, time stopped for me,” Arroyo said. “I thought about my parents, my father, the things I had not told people, about the people I wanted to see again. I thought about things I wanted for myself. Things I wanted to see for myself.”

Also in 2020, he urged the city to declare racism a public health emergency. Months later, then-mayor Martin J. Walsh did just that.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald. Tonya Alanez can be reached at Follow her @talanez.