Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo joined Boston Public Radio Friday to make his pitch as a candidate for Suffolk County district attorney. The former public defender laid out his position on several issues, and made a case for how his background would inform the job of Boston's top prosecutor.

“I represented hundreds of clients in both Superior and District Courts in both Essex and Suffolk County, and in that experience, I got to see firsthand the ways in which our criminal justice system really fails people, in the ways in which it sets them up for failure rather than success,” Arroyo said. “When they do that, it actually reduces safety and it puts us in a position where we're less likely to get the results we want.”

Arroyo wants Rollins’ no-prosecute list as policy

The city councilor expressed strong support for contiuning former District Attorney Rollins’ no-prosecute list for 15 nonviolent offenses, criticizing his opponent, interim DA Kevin Hayden, for approaching the list on a more case-by-case basis.

“What is the hesitation with saying ‘This is the policy, it’s the written policy and it's what we follow?’" Arroyo asked. "What has been so striking to me is that that policy has been proven to work. This isn't a question about whether or not it works. It works.”

Critics of the policy have called it too soft on crime, but Arroyo stood by the no-prosecute list as a way to reduce crime and direct legal resources toward more serious offenses.

“If the voters feel like that's not where they're at and they don't want to engage with that, then I'm fine,” he said. “I will say I think that these policies are why I've gotten the endorsements of Mayor Michelle Wu, Sen. Warren, Sen. Markey, a number of other elected officials in the city and the county.”

On public safety and decriminalizing addiction

Following Wu’s endorsement of Arroyo, his competitor, interim DA Kevin Hayden, called Arroyo a “novice attorney with zero public safety experience.” Arroyo pushed back, pointing to his background as a public defender.

“I got to take people to their rehabilitation clinics, I got to take people to their doctor appointments — which is what I've done, I’ve got to take people and get them housing and jobs,” he said. “If the only public safety experience that anybody is judging me on — apparently the only public safety experience my opponent sort of sees — is putting somebody in jail, no, I haven't done that. … But I would push back on the idea that I don't know what public safety experience looks like.”

When asked how he would approach the homelessness crisis and drug addiction, particularly at the homeless encampments surrounding Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, Arroyo looked to past experiences with clients.

“I've actually represented as a public defender people who call Mass. and Cass home,” he said. “What I know is that criminalizing and continuing to criminalize addiction does not work, coercive rehabilitation does not work,” he said.

Arroyo said he wants a different approach. “This problem is going to continue to fester until we actually address this as a medical crisis,” he said. “My commitment to this is never criminalizing addiction. I've never seen it work.”

Calls for greater transparency in the Patrick Rose Sr. case

The city councilor wants to see more clarity around the Patrick Rose Sr. case, regarding the former Boston police union president recently sentenced to prison on child sex charges. Rose first faced an investigation in 1995, but remained on the force and rose through the ranks until retiring in 2018. In 2020, he was arrested on 33 counts of sexual abuse of six children.

Reports on Rose released to the public have faced criticism for being heavily redacted, citing victim privacy. “I think transparency is the best way to go about this, so I've actually pushed on this publicly, I expect and hope that we will see more,” he said. “I think there's a lot of things there that have nothing to do with victims. We want to know what officers knew, who knew, when they knew.”

As district attorney, Arroyo said he would make police accountability cases a focus. “No other job would ever allow this or should allow this, and so I would look into those things very seriously.”