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Krasner lays out vision for office after winning DA’s primary

Controversial candidate for Philly’s top prosecutor addresses criticism at first news conference.
Defense and civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner, the Democratic candidate for DA. (Charles Mostoller)

Larry Krasner, Democratic candidate for district attorney, addressed reporters on Wednesday afternoon to discuss his hopes if elected, and to address a recent backlash that bubbled up within 12 hours of the criminal defense attorney’s primary victory.

“It will be an office that is very much oriented toward understanding justice in a holistic, global, broad sense, as opposed to kind of a narrow, blindered sense,” Krasner said when asked how he’d run the office. “We won’t be reckless with the taxpayers' money, throwing it down the hole of mass incarceration rather than putting it into the things that actually prevent crime, like public education, like job training, like treatment for people who suffer from a medical condition known as addiction.”

The longtime defense attorney was asked about comments that John McNesby, president of the police union, FOP Lodge 5, made to the Philadelphia Daily News after Krasner was declared winner of the primary election.

Calling Krasner’s supporters who were videotaped chanting "F– the FOP" at his victory party “parasites of the city" and suggesting that Philadelphia police officers pull their cars to the side of the road and “don’t do a damn thing,” McNesby claimed that Krasner would “be catastrophic to the department and the community as a whole."

On Wednesday afternoon, Krasner balked at that allegation, even suggesting that, by hinting that officers should not perform their jobs, McNesby was advocating a criminal dereliction of duty.

“It’s irresponsible to suggest that law enforcement officers, who are paid by taxpayers, would not do what they are required and ordered to do by the police commissioner, but would still be taking home their paychecks – that’s just a strange thing to say,” he said. “But, I do understand that people get upset, and they say some pretty peculiar things when their candidates do not win, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I do not believe that this police force has been hijacked by any group that can tell them not to do their jobs.”

He pointed out that the union isn’t in command of the police, and instead, Krasner said he’s already had conversations with the man who is: Police Commissioner Richard Ross. Krasner called Ross “a genuinely progressive, forward-thinking commissioner,” and he looks forward to working with Ross if elected.

In a report on the reaction that prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office have had to Krasner’s primary victory, the Philadelphia Daily News said “many of its 600 employees were dismayed by [Krasner’s] platform.”

But Krasner told reporters that he didn’t believe that was the case, and instead said that many employees in that office called to congratulate him.

“There are really good people in that office, and really good people in that office want things to be better there,” he said. “They want to seek justice just as I ran for district attorney to seek justice, and in that sense, we have a ton in common.”

If elected, Krasner said his first steps in office would be for the city’s prosecutors to stop seeking the death penalty, to recruit more talented individuals into the department and to end mass incarceration for “people who don’t deserve to be in custody.”

“Ultimately, the engine of all of this has been that despite good intentions, things that have been done in the criminal justice system have just made things worse, and we’ve got to make things better,” said Krasner. 

Krasner will square off against the Republican candidate for DA, Beth Grossman, in November.