Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins — with lawyerly precision — waded into the controversy surrounding the suspension of Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White, who faces dismissal in the wake of an independent lawyer's report that suggested police covered up allegations of domestic abuse made 22 years ago by White's then wife.

“Somebody signed something under the pains and penalties of perjury. For me that has to trump … somebody just saying, ‘Yeah, that never happened,’” Rollins told GBH News on Boston Public Radio.

Rollins' comments came as Boston grapples with a lawsuit from White, who has been on administrative leave since two days after former Mayor Marty Walsh appointed him in February.

A pair of recently-filed affidavits from White and former Commissioner William Gross state that Walsh was aware of two old domestic violence allegations within White’s personnel file at the time of his promotion to commissioner.

Walsh denies the claim, as does Gross' predecessor, former Commissioner William Evans.

Overnight, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for more information to be made public, while Rep. Seth Moulton said that if Walsh did know of the abuse resignations, he should resign as U.S. Secretary of Labor.

At about the same time Rollins was speaking on GBH News, Rep. Stephen Lynch expressed his support for Walsh.

GBH Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan spoke with Rollins about the appointment controversy, the pending lawsuit and the Boston Police Department. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Margery Eagan: The repeated stories coming out of the Globe about Patrick Rose, the police officer who now faces multiple veritable allegations about child sexual abuse, the appointment of the police commissioner, Dennis White, without apparently adequate vetting and police officers not cooperating with this investigation… I think only 14 to 21 [officers] refused to be interviewed, including the current commissioner, Gregory Long. So it's a little disturbing. What's your reaction to this whole thing?

Rachael Rollins: I agree. I think we absolutely need some stability in the police department. I do want to make sure I say that Acting Commissioner Greg Long has stepped up and I have had a very good relationship with him in the months that he's taken leadership of the organization in an acting role, but we have all experienced the abrupt resignation of Commissioner Gross, the abrupt appointment of Commissioner White, and then two days later, him placed on administrative leave. We need some solid, steady leadership. And in addition, we have an acting mayor and we have an acting Boston police commissioner. We need some stability. As we look at COVID-19 restrictions ending and the increased warm weather, we're going to see an uptick like we, unfortunately, normally do with respect to violence. We need leadership.

Jim Braude: How do we get to that place of stability? As you know, a judge is deciding whether or not to grant an injunction to the commissioner-for-a-day White to decide whether or not he can be fired. You are aware that it's two former police commissioners against one Willie Gross, saying he told Marty Walsh about the record of Dennis White, Ed Davis saying “that's the way we traditionally do things.” And as you know, Bill Evans saying relentlessly, “I didn't know about it until the Globe reported on it. And if I didn't know about it, Marty Walsh didn't know about it.” How do you reach a point of stability?

Rollins: I think we see, in addition to the acting leadership of Greg Long, which I do really want to say has been a steady and strong leadership, and he needs to be commended for standing up and doing this completely thankless job right now — it is really remarkable to see the affidavit filed by former Commissioner Gross [and] hearing former Commissioner Davis support him. And, I don't know whether you're speaking about Commissioner Paul Evans —

Braude: Bill Evans. Thank you.

Rollins: Bill Evans. Of course, there are brothers involved in the system — police commissioners. But, if you read the report that was issued, there are multiple times — this is a report from Tamsin Kaplan — where the commissioner, Paul Evans, is notified immediately of an IAD finding or an investigation. So if we are going to believe what's in the report and commissioners are notified immediately of IAD and ACD, these are internal affairs division and anti-corruption division findings. And if you pull all 19 pages, you'll see that, we have Commissioner Gross taking an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury saying that that happened. So again, guys, I think this goes to the kind of infighting that we're seeing right now. And it doesn't help — Patrick Rose Sr., which, of course, our office is prosecuting, and the Globe spotlight sort of pointing out some of these failures.

The last thing I do need to say, though, is a lot of this that we're reading about is twenty, twenty one is regarding bad behavior that happened in 1993 or 1999 or 2000. Right. And that does not in any way say we're perfect now. But I do want to make sure we understand what we're talking about, is behavior that is alleged to have occurred well over two decades ago.

Braude: So let's assume you're factually right when it comes to the Dennis White behavior. And obviously you're not referencing Rose, who is credibly accused is a serial child molester. Let's assume it’s true for argument's sake, even though Dennis White denies it. What is the relevance of it having been 20 years old? Meaning, history is history, been clean since, so we should move past?

Rollins: No — believe me, if this were easy, we wouldn't be talking about this right now, the three of us. This is a system failure. And, reading what the allegations are in this report, they're troubling. They are very, very troubling, whether they are decades old or whether they happened right now. What I have said that I still stand by — I'm not in any way condoning the alleged behavior of Commissioner White decades ago, but if this person was vetted and promoted up to the third-highest ranking position within a 2,100 person police department. If we are to believe the affidavit of the then acting commissioner who had who had stepped down, that former Mayor Walsh knew this — it's going to be a really interesting issue for Judge Brieger, who's a former federal prosecutor at the U.S. attorney's office, an excellent lawyer, a very, very bright person, obviously, as she's sitting on our superior court, to determine what the standard is. She's been clear that she's not interested in the politics, but is there cause for this termination?

And the last thing I'll end with Jim and Margery, is look at what happened with Officer Garrett Rolfe in Atlanta, who is the police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks and was terminated immediately by the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has said she's not seeking reelection. He was just reinstated by civil service, even though there are charges against him. He's on administrative leave.

But process matters. And I think what we have to be far better at moving forward, and [I’m] optimistic that we will be with a new head of the internal affairs and anti-corruption division, Superintendent Daughton is exceptional there. We need to be more transparent about what the processes are. And, there was some disturbing stuff which I hope we talk about, about the alleged blue wall of silence. Are people coming forward to help this investigation or not?

Braude: Before we get to the blue wall of silence, which I know Margery is going to get to in a second, two things that came out of what you just said, you seem to be saying and, obviously you've been inside the system, that based on what you know and reading the Kaplan report, obviously following the hearing in front of the judge yesterday, you seem to be saying you think there was not cause for the dismissal of Dennis White.

Rollins: No. I want to be clear. That is not my decision to make. What I'm saying is I want to be clear that I think our former mayor left a very big mess for our acting mayor.

Braude: Do you think he knew, do you believe Willie Gross? Do you believe Mayor Walsh knew about this despite his denials?

Rollins: Here's what I can tell you, Jim. As a lawyer, I have a signed affidavit from one person saying what happened. And I have lots to talk from other people, but somebody signed something under the pains and penalties of perjury, for me that has to trump — I love using that word — that has to trump somebody just saying, “yeah, that never happened.”

Braude: So you do believe him?

Rollins: Well, no, what I'm saying is I have a document in front of me that's signed under the pains and penalties of perjury. Just even forget about being a lawyer, that has to be more credible than just somebody saying, “yeah, that didn't happen.”

Braude: If it is credible, what should happen to Marty Walsh?

Rollins: That is a better question for somebody else. What I can tell you, Jim, is, the acting mayor has an important job to do right now. And as the chief law enforcement officer in Suffolk County, I am committed to working with Acting Commissioner Long. We hopefully are going to be having a meeting with the (inaudible)… what we are doing to proactively disrupt violence and how we are going to be working together.

But Jim, every summer as we lead into Memorial Day, I sit with former Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Goss and myself. Now that the that the global pandemic is ending, I am bracing for — we have exceptional police officers and, please hear me, that are actively working at trying to disrupt violence and thinking about where they can affirmatively move and do things prior to people shooting or taking harm, looking at who's coming out of jail if there are internal conflicts between different communities or affiliations. There's a lot of work that the BRIC does that my Crime Strategies Bureau do. So, we're going to be doing that.

But, in the background, Jim, all this noise of former commissioners fighting with former commissioners and acting commissioner right now, a lawsuit regarding it, with a preliminary injunction — it is a huge distraction from the tremendous work that the Boston Police Department does every day to keep our neighborhoods safe. It's just a distraction and we have to be better at waiting for this decision from Judge Brieger. And then, obviously somebody is going to appeal, depending on what it is that she finds.

And then we have to see, because right now, if you've read this report, does anyone have faith in in Commissioner White right now? Imagine being the third-highest person in the Boston Police Department, told that you're going to get the promotion to be number one and now you're fired. For something that in his opinion and, I'm not saying mine, but reading the report that the police department not only knew about and the thing that's coming out now from 1993, that’s six years prior to 1999. It's not that it was six years later and we never knew about it. That's even older behavior. I'm not saying it is justified in any way possible, but this is a systems failure and a man is being penalized because of a systems failure.

And I don't envy the person that has to make that decision. But I just know as the chief law enforcement officer, I want our communities to have faith in the overwhelmingly exceptional men and women of the Boston Police Department that keep them protected and safe every single day, detectives, officers, et cetera, and acting commissioner Long.

Eagan: I think it's been reported in the Globe and probably elsewhere that it's clear that Dennis White may, in fact, have the legal right to stay in his job, which is the decision we're waiting for. But you know something, District Attorney Rollins, I don't mean to be throwing rain on the parade here, but it seems obvious to me that with the lack of transparency and the continued shenanigans we read about right now in the Boston police — the Globe did a series earlier this year, the police officer was fired by Ed Davis for malfeasance regarding money matters, was reinstated. And this often happens through arbitration or through civil service or through union rules and is now one of the highest moneymakers in Boston.

Because the fat is so marbled through the meat here, it's a bunch of problems with the cops. And one last thing and I'll shut up, is that we read in the report about the Dennis White situation that the good cop, and I have no doubt that there are many, many good cops, who really would prefer not to have to work next to bad cops who are ruining their reputation. But the cop who would try to do the right thing with domestic violence unit way back when in the 90s was retaliated against. And that seems to be the fate then and the fate now, because otherwise police officers — one cop said, if it was indeed a cop, someone in the police department was called five times (inaudible) — said shut up about this. So, yeah, there's a big systems problem.

Rollins: Margery, you're right. It is a terrible situation to be in. And right now, who would want to stand forward? I know it's the right thing to do, but if — the worst kept secret in the world is that there was going to be a press conference last week to announce potentially another acting commissioner and then this injunction was filed. And then that would have been four police commissioners in the in a period of three or four months and possibly another one, because whoever the mayor ends up being after this election, whether it's Acting Mayor Janey or one of the other individuals that has put in and received the appropriate signatures and has made the ballot.

We are the oldest police department in our country. And listen, I hold them accountable. Don't get me wrong. I know you think you hear me all the time saying they need to do better. They need to do better. They do. But I'm talking about the ones, the very small percentage of ones that are getting those IAD complaints or a few complaints that are sustained or that are getting arrested. And remember, police officers are people just like you and I. Same way that somebody you love might get an OUI or might have a substance use disorder or might have, anger issues. These are not heroes. They do heroic things, but they are people just like you and me. So I feel like we have to reinstall faith. Look, this is my opinion. It is going to obviously be ultimately up to who the mayor is.

But if you saw Attorney Carter, who represents Commissioner White, or heard or read some of the articles, he believes that his client's reputation has been so irretrievably damaged that, can he in fact, if reappointed, can he lead and build trust back up? And of course, that's an argument that I think the attorney Kay Hodge for the city of Boston and Acting Mayor Janey made good use of what she said. And if that is just money, then he does not need the four prongs of a preliminary injunction. There is actually some resolution that isn't the immediate injunction that could cure the problem.

So this is going to be a really interesting thing to watch. We'll see when Judge Brieger comes out with her decision. But in the interim, guys, what we need is no more fighting between these commissioners. We need to make sure moving forward — I'd like to know if this happened today, what would the process be? Let's stay above the fray right now and say, maybe Acting Commissioner Long, look, had this happened right now, I would be notified or I wouldn't be notified or moving forward, we will make sure that the commissioner is notified. This is why it's important that policies are written and that we articulate them in a transparent way to the community. Because, again, not to toot my own horn, but it's the reason I put my list of 15 in writing. But I'm tired of people saying, “oh, I didn't say that. No, it wasn't that crime. Oh, no, I said that at a different forum. Oh, I didn't know.” If that doesn't happen, you have my cell number. Call me and we'll make sure it does.

Braude: Rachael Rollins, three very quick things before you go. By the way, I feel an obligation like I did last week, since you've mentioned Acting Commissioner Long repeatedly, say that I had a personal interaction with him about a personal matter a week or so ago, and he was, which has no relevance to this, just want to say that, he was nothing short of terrific in responsive. Three quick things, if I can.

Rollins: He's a wonderful man and he is — look, do we agree on everything? No, but he is a servant for the city of Boston. He has stepped up in a time when now there are people questioning things that have happened in his past. He cares about the city deeply and he wants it safe. I say that outright.

Braude: OK, three very quick things. Of the 14 people who were pursued by the investigator, Kaplan, some of them, at least of the fourteen, were cops. Are they within their legal right not to participate, not to cooperate with an investigation?

Rollins: In the report on page five, it says, during the course of the investigation, she attempted to contact twenty one witnesses, including twelve current and retired Boston police officers and nine civilians. Had this been an IAD or an ACD investigation after they received certain warnings right there, there are requirements. We can't force you to answer our questions and then criminally charge you with that. We can handle it administratively or have civil implications for you. But the statements against self-incrimination trump administrative stuff that we are handling. But it's a different question, as far as an outside investigation.

The one other thing I would like to say is I do think Acting Commissioner Long was put in a near impossible position to instruct people to answer questions about somebody that he might be replacing. How does that not look like a sort of conflict of interest for the commissioner?

Eagan: Because he didn't cooperate with the investigation either. Is that what you're saying?

Rollins: Margery, you're absolutely right. Right after that one section that Jim just pointed out on page five, it says something about Commissioner Long.

Braude: Rachael Rollins, I'm worried you're going to run out of time. Quickly, if the judge in this case grants the injunction, what should Acting Mayor Janey do? There was a piece in the Globe suggesting she try to do a buyout. Should she just relent and say Dennis White is the commissioner, we need stability, let him take the job?

Rollins: Look — I leave that up to the very capable Mayor Janey.

Braude: With all due respect, you're the one who started this by saying we need stability and leadership. You're the head law enforcement person in this county, in the city. What should she do?

Rollins: I think no matter the outcome, there needs to be a meeting with the community. And we need to say this is — when things have happened in the role that I'm in right now, we try to meet with them before there's an issue and we explain what the process is going to be. And then we stand by it. And if we get new information that requires us to adapt and change quickly, then we do so. But we always have to be keeping the community involved in what's happening. And the community isn't just the 23 or so neighborhoods in Boston. It's the Boston Police Department. It's our law enforcement partners in Suffolk County, Winthrop, Chelsea, Revere, transit police and the Mass State Police. I think we just all have to be better about talking to each other. And that, I think, is going to make things significantly better. I intend to continue communicating with individuals in my role as the chief law enforcement officer with all of my chiefs. And I'm planning on reaching out to the union leadership as well to start discussing this issue, because I think it could be a significant crisis on our hands.

Braude: But the notion of keeping White, should he get an injunction from this judge, should at least be on the table as one of the range of options, is that correct?

Rollins: All I can say, Jim, is that having worked with Mayor Janey, she is going to have a very broad look at what this is, what are all of my options, even if some of them might seem outrageous, that I would never do. She is the type of person and the type of leader that listens. She hears information and then allows people to speak and then goes off and makes that determination. So I'm going to sidestep your answer and not say what I think that's going to be.

I will say one thing, though, Jim. I do want to give this lawyer credit, this Kaplan report. Some information that's coming out now, unfortunately, about what we saw happen in Holyoke, the soldier's home, and that Pearlstein report where there are allegations. And Mark Pearlstein is a former assistant United States attorney as well. But you know that that some of these reports sometimes try to shield the very people that are paying for the report to be done. I will say that we should be commending Kaplan, whether people are happy or not with the fact that they did a great job of laying out procedurally everything. I think it shows how important it is that we have steady leadership in all of these positions.

Eagan: Yeah, another woman, I might point out.

Rollins: You know, I love that, Margery. Yes, I was trying to say that without screaming it.

Braude: What's the latest on the U.S. attorney position?

Rollins: Whatever are you speaking? I am happy to say that the Biden administration just announced some article three judges. A former colleague of mine, Angel Kelly Brown, has been nominated to be on the district court bench. She would be only, I think, the second Black woman ever appointed on our federal bench and also has AAPI background. So there has not been a lot of representation there. And, again, with respect to Deepika, Jennifer and myself, I am just honored to be in their presence. Jennifer Serafyn and Deepika [Bains Shukla], who runs the Springfield office of the U.S. Attorney's Office, are exceptional lawyers that have really strong backgrounds in civil rights. I think the Commonwealth is going to be well served no matter who is appointed U.S. attorney.

(This interview has been lighly edited for space.)