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Keller @ Large: Why Rachael Rollins' Confirmation Was So Divisive

BOSTON (CBS) - Just minutes before the final Senate vote on Rachael Rollins' confirmation as US Attorney for Massachusetts, the Republicans were still hard at work painting her as an extremist. "One of these radical, leftist, soft-on-crime district attorneys," was the way Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) put it.

But despite the promise of inflammatory attack ads to come, they couldn't move a single Democratic vote. And after Vice President Kamala Harris broke the partisan tie, it was a done deal, and a cause for celebration for Rollins allies like her former teacher at Northeastern Law, Prof. Deborah Ramirez. "We have here the beginning of a renaissance," she says, citing today's front-page news that while violent crime rates are up in many US cities, shooting, homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults are all down sharply in Boston.

And Ramirez credits both the police and Rollins' resource-freeing policies of handling non-violent crimes with diversion into treatment for the drug-addicted and mentally ill and substituting restitution for costly incarceration.

"She has already proven that her method and her version are effective and make us stronger and safer, and I think that she will do that again," says Ramirez.

The crime stats stand in sharp contrast with Cruz's claims of "lawlessness and dangerous crime that radical left-wing district attorneys like her have generated." And Jack McDevitt a criminology expert who heads Northeastern's Institute on Race and Justice, says Rollins will be well-positioned to spearhead a revival of the collaborative law-enforcement tactics that sparked the famous Boston Miracle of the 1990s, when violent crime plummeted.

"The US Attorney can bring coalitions of local law enforcement, police, prosecutors and the US Attorney's office together to say, 'how do we deal with problems of crime in different neighborhoods?' And I think Rachael's gonna be very good at building those.'"

Once Rollins resigns to take on her new job, Gov. Charlie Baker will appoint an interim Suffolk County DA to serve at least through next year. And it seems likely he'll pick someone who understands that the key formula of the Miracle, in which federal, state, county and city law enforcement worked in tandem with clergy, academia and street-level activists, is making a comeback.

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