Asked if she could summarize her thoughts on what’s needed to root out corruption and restore public trust in the Boston Police Department, former Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral paused for a moment, and then laughed.

“You say it so simply,” she chided. “Four words, ‘how would you do that?’”

Cabral returned for her weekly discussion on Boston Public Radio Thursday, three days after acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey fired the city’s then-suspended police commissioner, Dennis White, over domestic violence allegations leveled against him in the 1990s.

With White’s firing, which has coincided with a growing overtime scandal with the BPD, Cabral was asked whether she believes public disillusionment with city police is warranted.

“It’s difficult for me to have an objective opinion,” she noted, as a former prosecutor, county sheriff, and state secretary of public safety. “But to your point, I can certainly understand any member of the public looking at it and being angry.”

“There is a certain peeling of the onion that is going on here, and there are lots of sort of carefully crafted efforts over decades of time to make sure that that onion never gets peeled,” she said. “When you finally do,” she added, “what you find underneath it is a lot of stuff that is going to be deeply concerning and deeply troubling.”

On the question of reform, she reflected on her time as Suffolk County sheriff and the painstaking process of trying to change police culture from within.

“When you reach a point like this in government, it has taken decades to get there,” she said, speaking to a lack of self-policing within BPD. “The idea that it can be solved quickly is just a pipe dream. It took me six years in the sheriff’s department to get it to the point where I felt like there was a good foundation to build on, [with respect to] creating a meritocracy, encouraging people to not, sort of, ‘go along to get along.’”

Also at play, she said, is the reality that reform takes sustained pressure from leadership — which can be hard when positions are re-staffed every election cycle.

“To make the investment that it’s going to take to really change means you’ve got to have some very hearty people willing to stick around and do this for the long term,” she said. “Part of the reason that it’s gotten to the point where it’s gotten is because people [work] in two and four year increments, according to who the elected officials are.”

“That is an absolute recipe for unsustainability of both purpose and mission, and message, and operation,” she said.

Andrea Cabral is the former sheriff of Suffolk County and the former Massachusetts secretary of public safety. She is currently CEO of the cannabis company Ascend.