The residents of Philadelphia elected new District Attorney Larry Krasner because he wasn't like the long line of police misconduct enablers that preceded him. Fed up with crumbling relationships between law enforcement officers and the people they served, Krasner secured the position by promising to clean house and start representing the people's best interests, rather than just law enforcement's.
Just days after he asked 33 prosecutors and staff members to turn in their resignations, Krasner defended his actions saying this is no different than what others have done when taking over a ship that has been troubled and trying to right its course.
"The coach gets to pick the team. It doesn't necessarily mean the players who were traded are bad players. Some of them might be, some of them might be great players, but they simply do not fit into the strategy of the team," Krasner said.
If prosecutors aren't safe, then no one's safe. That's the message being sent, one that has trickled down to police brass and to the beat officers far below them. Krasner dropped all existing marijuana possession charges and stated his office would no longer pursue charges against people possessing minor amounts of the drug.
Cash bail was targeted, too.
Calling the current cash-bail system “imprisonment for poverty,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Wednesday that the city’s prosecutors will no longer seek cash bail for nonviolent defendants while they await trial.
Krasner's options are limited on the bail front, as it would take legislation to completely overhaul the system. But it does promise some relief to those charged with minor crimes. As it stands now, one out of every five people incarcerated in Philadelphia have yet to be tried, much less convicted. The bail system keeps poor people locked up and puts them in an even worse position even if they're ultimately proven innocent.
Krasner has made no friends with longtime law enforcement officers. But if he's going to change police culture in Philadelphia, he's going to need the help of new blood. Change will still need to be made up top, but if he can reach those just entering the system, some helpful changes could also bubble up from the bottom.
So, Krasner addressed a class of police cadets, offering some insight and commentary on his office's place in police accountability. This resulted in the head of the local police union publicly blowing a gasket and sending all police union members a letter disparaging the DA and his conversation with cadets.
Krasner’s attempt to share practical information with the soon-to-be officers was “ridiculous and dangerous” and “intentionally sought to endanger your lives,” Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) leader John McNesby wrote in an open letter to the cadet class. He told them to “completely disregard any and all advice received from self-appointed ‘experts’ who seek to deceive or mislead you.”
What made McNesby apoplectic? I don't think McNesby can say for sure since he wasn't even present during the talk and hadn't seen the recording of the presentation made available by the DA's office. Instead -- based on nothing -- McNesby declared DA Krasner an enemy of the police force who wished to see officers injured or dead.
If he had bothered to see the presentation firsthand, he might not have been so quick to remove all doubt that he is a fool.
On Friday morning, Waxman played the video for a reporter. Krasner can be seen discussing several scenarios, including one in which officers fatally shoot an unarmed and mentally ill man who had reached for another officer’s gun and struggled with him over it.
The video shows Krasner referring to “some mistakes that were made” in that scenario, and saying the man could have survived had the officers not displayed “an eagerness to shoot center mass.”
But, the video also shows him saying: “That does not mean those officers committed any crime. That does not mean there’s any disciplinary violation. That means those officers acted with preliminary information, under a whole lot of time pressure with things developing quickly, [and] made an honest mistake. And this District Attorney’s Office is not going to second-guess that.”
All in all, the presentation was supportive of officers and the split-second decisions they make when deploying force. The only thing that might seem unsupportive -- and only in the fever dreams of union bosses who will defend the worst of the uniformed worst -- was his suggestion that officers try something other than "shoot to kill" tactics if at all possible.
He suggested training could help guide when officers choose to fire their weapons, and — in a line that likely riled police the most — whether every shot needs to be “center mass.” Police and military members have for decades been trained to shoot for a suspect’s chest or back, as opposed to arms or legs, to more effectively stop a threat.
A police force that kills fewer people is a good thing. There's no disputing this point. And that was the point implicit in his statements. Fewer deaths mean fewer lawsuits and better relationships with the public. Not everyone carrying a weapon needs to be killed. And those that aren't carrying weapons have a better chance of survival if "reasonably scared" cops try to neutralize the perceived threat, rather than banish it from existence.
The union boss' letter is an ugly testament to the natural state of police unions. When even slightly threatened by a small shift in the status quo, they lash out at everyone -- victims of police violence, political activists, local residents -- with unhinged arguments that assert their desire for zero law enforcement accountability. FOP president John McNesby is no exception. But he is one of the worst. Having already called Black Lives Matter protesters a "pack of rabid animals,"he's following up this PR coup by claiming, sight unseen, the new DA doesn't care about "blue lives." It a garbage letter from a garbage human being with more power than wisdom.