Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins announced this week the expansion and revision of a database comprised of law enforcement personnel whose prior conduct could impact their credibility as witnesses in a court proceeding. The database is called LEAD – Law Enforcement Automatic Discovery.
“The database will be one pillar of my office’s Integrity Review Bureau,” said Rollins. “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. 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. The Constitution requires as much.’’
“If testimony provided by prosecution witnesses is suspect, then the criminal legal system itself is suspect,” Rollins continued. “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.
“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,” Rollins added. “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. 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.”
The LEAD database currently has some 136 names of law enforcement officers who work, have worked, or could work in Suffolk County, including State Troopers, MBTA police, and police officers from Boston, Chelsea and Revere.
More than 115 names have been added by the Suffolk DA’s office in the last year.
There are several ways in which an individual can be added to the database, 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 (including but not limited to: race; color; religious creed; national origin; immigration status; sex; gender identity; sexual orientation; pregnancy; ancestry; or status as a veteran); 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.
Rollins said her office is 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.
“In these uncertain times that 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,” Rollins said.
As part of District Attorney Rollins’ review and administration of the database, inclusion in the LEAD Database and removal from the database will mirror statutory time guidelines concerning the admissibility of prior convictions that is set forth in state law. This disclosure protocol exceeds any current statutory and common law obligation and does not concede admissibility in any court proceeding.
“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,” said Rollins.
Officers can appeal in writing to the DA’s office when they believe that they should be excluded from the list and those appeals will be reviewed initially by the First Assistant District Attorney and General Counsel, and then ultimately by the District Attorney.
“This is a living document,’’ Rollins concluded. “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. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office discovery policy will meet or exceed constitutional and ethical obligations and reflect a culture of integrity, transparency and honesty.”