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OPINION

Is Kevin Hayden fit to be district attorney?

When it comes to holding police accountable, Hayden’s office looks uncomfortably like a throwback to see-no-evil prosecutors of the past.

BOSTON, MA - 8/9/2022 Interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden participates in a debate with City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo at More Than Words Bookstore in Boston on Tuesday. Erin Clark/Globe Staff TOPIC: 10DADEBATEErin Clark / Globe Staff

Kevin Hayden, the newly appointed Suffolk County district attorney who is seeking a full term this fall, is giving voters a lot of reason to question whether he is fit for the job after a recent Globe report cast doubt on his willingness to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct. His sloppy response to the story has only made matters worse since then.

Here’s what happened: An MBTA Police officer, Jacob Green, allegedly pulled his gun on a driver during a traffic dispute when he was off duty. Green proceeded to cover his tracks in real time by allegedly writing up false police reports and getting one of his colleagues to provide false witness testimony. Former district attorney Rachael Rollins launched a probe to get to the bottom of this case. But after Rollins left to become US attorney and Governor Charlie Baker appointed Hayden to fill her role, the investigation inexplicably stalled and appeared to be all but doomed. In fact, Hayden’s top deputy, Kevin Mullen, told Green’s lawyer that he had “no appetite to prosecute this case.” Meanwhile, Hayden has insisted that the case has never been closed. “This matter remained open and active at all times, ever since I first came into the office under the Rollins administration,” he said in an interview.

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But it was only after Globe reporters initially reached out to Hayden that his office assigned a new prosecutor to the case, and only after the story was published that Hayden sent the case to a grand jury — all while the DA’s office gave a series of statements that at times seemed contradictory. On Wednesday, Hayden told the Globe editorial board that his office is conducting an internal review of his deputy’s actions. He also promised that he would direct Mullen, who had previously declined to talk with the Globe, to answer reporters’ questions.

Those are all welcome steps, but the fact remains that none of them happened until the Globe report and the subsequent political fallout. Hayden insists the timing is pure coincidence.

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“I understand that today’s announcement will be perceived as a reaction to media reports,” Hayden said in his statement announcing the grand jury. “I cannot control perceptions. But I can assure everyone that this action would be happening on the same timeline regardless of what attention this investigation did or didn’t attract.”

But the publicly known details suggest that Hayden’s assertion is not true. Consider what we know so far: A grand jury was originally planned for April, and while it seemed a prosecution was in the cards, the DA’s office appeared to want to be done with the case without explanation, according to Transit Police officials. That same month, Mullen told Green’s lawyer that the case was essentially over — a statement that the lawyer has made in a sworn affidavit. While Hayden’s office initially denied that, they later backtracked and said Green’s lawyer simply misunderstood what Mullen said.

None of that sounds like a very linear timeline. Indeed, when it comes to holding law enforcement accountable, Hayden’s office’s actions look uncomfortably like a throwback to the see-no-evil prosecutors of the past. He has said that he does take police accountability seriously and will continue to do so if he’s elected for a full term as DA. “Since I’ve arrived here, there are other instances of misconduct and criminality involving police officers that we have charged and will continue to do so,” he said. But his appointment of Mullen — making a former defense lawyer for police accused of misconduct his top deputy — is a troubling sign of where the district attorney’s sympathies lie. (Incidentally, when I followed up on Hayden’s promise and asked to speak to his deputy, the DA’s office said Mullen was on vacation.)

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Hayden faces a serious challenge from city councilor Ricardo Arroyo, the brother and son of Boston politicians who has positioned himself as the reformer in the race — someone who will make police accountability a bedrock of his prosecutorial career. Unless Hayden can quickly restore confidence in his handling of the T case, he’s going to let Arroyo claim that mantle without much of a fight. And there’s not much time left before people cast their ballots. So what is Hayden waiting for?


Abdallah Fayyad is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at abdallah.fayyad@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @abdallah_fayyad.