By Cailin Garcia
BOSTON, MA – District Attorney Rachel Rollins has announced that Suffolk County will be expanding and revising Law Enforcement Automatic Discovery (LEAD)—a database that collects the names of law enforcement personnel whose prior conduct could affect their credibility as witnesses in court proceedings.
District Attorney Rollins’ office handles more than 25,000 cases per year in communities that span Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop, Massachusetts. Rollins hopes the LEAD database will be “reflective of this office’s continued commitment to complete transparency and fair and equitable prosecution.
““The database will be one pillar of my office’s Integrity Review Bureau. As members of law enforcement, we are held to a higher standard. We in law enforcement cannot adequately perform our duties if the community does not trust us or believes that we lack integrity. That does nothing to keep our communities safe; to solve crimes; and to foster, cultivate, and build mutual trust and respect between the police and the people and communities they serve,” said Rollins.
“The LEAD database will help us ensure that the legal process works and people charged with crimes by our office receive all of the information they are entitled to in order to properly defend themselves,” she said.
““If testimony provided by prosecution witnesses is suspect then the criminal legal system itself is suspect. All of us in law enforcement must be beyond reproach because what we do impacts matters of life, death, and freedom for the general public,” she finished.
According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement personnel can be added to the LEAD database for several reasons, including:
- an investigation or prosecution into criminal conduct in any jurisdiction;
- an investigation in any jurisdiction based on discriminatory or defamatory actions, language or conduct targeting any protected category or class;
- an investigation, including a law enforcement agency’s internal affairs or anti-corruption units/divisions in any jurisdiction casting doubt upon truthfulness or integrity; or
- a finding in any jurisdiction by a judge, an administrative agency, review board, or any oversight entity created by the legislature, federal, state, county, local or municipal elected official(s), or the like, that the individual employed by a law enforcement agency is not credible.
“The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers and employees in Suffolk County are dedicated and compassionate professionals who provide exemplary service to the communities they serve. The database is not voluminous, but the actions of the officers within LEAD are harmful, or potentially harmful to the community and the criminal legal system,” said Rollins.
“When the credibility of law enforcement is in question, all participants in the system – and the public – should be aware of that. The people of Suffolk County deserve to know that the public officials they rely on for their safety are truly invested in it. Anything less is a betrayal of their trust and our obligation to serve,” Rollins continued.
At this time, the LEAD database contains the names of 126 law enforcement officers who work, have worked, or could work in Suffolk County, with more than 115 of those names having been added in the last year.
Rollins’ office has promised to be “committed to a policy to ensure both that law enforcement agencies are kept apprised of their officers’ activities that come under scrutiny by the office, and that defendants have access to information concerning alleged misconduct of prosecution witnesses, regardless of its admissibility in court.”
Inclusion and removal from the LEAD database will be based on statutory time guidelines concerning the admissibility of prior convictions that is set forth in state law. (G. L.c. 233, § 21).
In a press release, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office stated that “this disclosure protocol exceeds any current statutory and common law obligation and does not concede admissibility in any court proceeding. It is, however, reflective of this office’s continued commitment to complete transparency and fair and equitable prosecution.
“The clock starts running from disclosure. So, to be clear, when we learn of Internal Affairs or Anti-Corruption investigations through the Boston Globe, the Dorchester Reporter, Commonwealth Magazine, or any other media outlet or publication and not our law enforcement partners, the clock starts running from the article date, not the infraction or investigation date. This should hopefully encourage disclosure and cooperation,” explained District Attorney Rollins.
If they feel they should be excluded from the database, officers can appeal in writing to the District Attorney’s Office. Appeals will be reviewed by the First Assistant District Attorney and General Counsel, and then by the District Attorney.
“This is a living document. Names will be added to it, when, for example we are made aware of an investigation or any of the other entry criteria, and names can come off if an investigation exonerates someone, or an appeal is sustained,’’ Rollins said.
“In these uncertain times we as a nation find ourselves in, with so much tension and mistrust between law enforcement and the communities we are sworn to protect, we must maintain credibility in everything we do,” District Attorney Rollins stated.
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