Rachael Rollins to become Boston’s first female top prosecutor

"Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it's time for a change."

Rachael Rollins, left, takes questions directly from inmates during a forum at the Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay in Boston, June 26, 2018. Steven Senne / AP, File

BOSTON (AP) — A Democrat with a plan to forgo prosecution of certain low-level crimes will become Boston’s first female district attorney and the first woman of color to hold such a job anywhere in Massachusetts.

Rachael Rollins on Tuesday easily defeated independent Michael Maloney, a defense attorney who called her proposals reckless. Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, ran on the promise to help curb mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system while building trust between communities and law enforcement.

“Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it’s time for a change,” Rollins said in a statement.


She was widely viewed as the favorite after she defeated four Democrat opponents in the primary, including one backed by the longtime incumbent and police groups. She was endorsed by powerful Democrats, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and recently got a shout out from former President Barack Obama.

Rollins has pledged to push for ending cash bail, to hire a more diverse slate of prosecutors and to collect data to find potential biases among her staff. She has said her office will generally not prosecute more than a dozen crimes, including shoplifting and drug possession, dismissing the cases or treating them like civil infractions that require offenders to pay restitution or complete programs.


Rollins will be the first woman to serve as district attorney for Suffolk County, which encompasses Boston, Revere, Winthrop and Chelsea.

Rollins said in an interview last month that she will bring a new perspective to an office that has long been dominated by white men.

“I’m a woman of color. I have experienced law enforcement in positive and not-so-positive ways,” Rollins said. “I’ve had siblings that have come in and out of contact with the criminal justice system and I’m the guardian of two of my nieces due to the opioid crisis. … I will be looking at issues every day as the district attorney having had that experience.”


Rollins’ prosecution plan has come under fire from some law enforcement officers, who say they fear it will make their jobs more dangerous and lead to increased crime.

Rollins says offenders will still be held accountable but shouldn’t be jailed for crimes that result from mental health or addiction problems. She has said prosecutions could be brought in exceptional circumstances, but that she wants to focus her attention on homicides.

Rollins will replace John Pappas, who was appointed to the job in September after longtime incumbent Dan Conley resigned to go into private practice. It was the first contested race for Suffolk County district attorney since 2002, when Conley beat two unenrolled candidates.