Philadelphia Federation of Police president John McNesby makes no bones about his dislike of DA Larry Krasner. The two men are an immiscible mix, like oil and water.
Krasner, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, campaigned in 2017 as a social justice reformer against mass incarceration. For much of his career he defended Philadelphia’s poor and groups of political dissenters who could otherwise not obtain counsel. Before being elected to the DA’s Office, he sued the Philadelphia Police Department some 75 times.
In March 2018, Krasner required the prosecutors in his office to state on the record the benefits and costs of the sentences they recommended to judges after winning a conviction.
“A dollar spent on incarceration should be worth it,” The DA stated. “Otherwise that dollar may be better spent on addiction treatment, on public education, on policing, and on other types of activity that make us all safer.”
While working to end the excesses of mass incarceration, especially in drug-related cases, may be considered a positive for City of Philadelphia, some of Krasner’s reforms have been less than beneficial.
Since Krasner has been DA, shootings and homicides in the city have skyrocketed. Many of the perpetrators have been found to be repeat offenders or men released on reduced bail due to decisions from Krasner’s office. The majority of the homicides in the city since Krasner became DA are due to what FOP President John McNesby calls “Krasner’s sweetheart deals” with criminals and their allies.
When I asked McNesby by phone how he would correct gun violence and the murder rate in the city, he kept his answer short: “Get rid of Krasner.”
McNesby calls Krasner “arrogant,” and says that things are so bad in the city right now that the only thing left for him to do—since the DA’s Office proceeds merrily on its way without taking any criticism to heart—is to have a fistfight with Krasner in the street.
“An old-fashioned fist fight in the street, that’s what I’d like to do,” McNesby told me.
And the FOP President is not kidding.
“May I quote you on that?” I asked him.
“You bet,” he said.
Criticism of Krasner and his policies has grown steadily since his election to the District Attorneys Office in 2017. The criticism began as a slow trickle but as shootings in the city began to mount it grew exponentially until it came from dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.
Sentiment against Krasner runs deepest in city neighborhoods like Fishtown, Port Richmond, Bridesburg, and South Philadelphia. This was evident at the peak of the 2020 Presidential Election when the Impeach Krasner and Impeach Jim Kenney movements provided a strong alternative to Democratic Party loyalists who would ordinarily never criticize one of their own.
Today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of city Democrats who, though they voted for the Biden-Harris ticket in November, will stop short of supporting Larry Krasner in 2021.
Statistics tell a blunt story: As of April 15, 2021, 145 homicides and 442 non-fatal shootings have been registered in the city. The homicides this year account for a 32% increase from April 2020, the year with the second highest homicide rate in sixty years. In 2021 so far, 55 children have been shot.
McNesby says that Krasner’s office remains immune to the shootings and homicides. The DA’s office, he says, feels that it is “untouchable.”
McNesby firmly believes that the murder of 25-year-old Temple University graduate, Milan Loncar in the city’s Brewerytown neighborhood in January 2021, "lies solely on the lap" of District Attorney Larry Krasner. McNesby told Fox News, “If he [Krasner] did his job, in his office, what he was elected to do, some of the [crimes] would stop.”
Loncar was shot and killed while walking his dog in the evening. The next day, police apprehended his assailant during an attempted carjacking in another part of the city.
One of Loncar’s killers, Josephus Davis, had paid $3,000 in bail on armed robbery and kidnapping charges. His bail had been radically reduced because of coronavirus pandemic-related court closures. It was that low bail that led him to the fatal encounter with Loncar.
"It's been a complete train wreck since [Krasner] has been in office. His failed social experiment has driven crime up, driven murders up," McNesby said. "On the street, the criminals know that there are no repercussions. They call him ‘Let ‘Em Out Larry' – it's a joke. His ‘catch and release’ program, he’s experimenting with since 2017, is not working. “
Philadelphia’s 2021 DA race is proving to be quite a spectacle, with Carlos Vega running as an alternative to Krasner in the Democratic primary, and attorney Chuck Peruto running on the Republican ticket.
McNesby, who supports Vega, sees a Krasner defeat as the only way that Philadelphia can save itself.
In what many would consider to be a strange twist, seventy five percent of Krasner’s support for the 2021 DA’s race does not come from within the city, but from wealthy left-wing philanthropists and PAC groups, especially from California. In 2017, George Soros contributed 1.45 million to a PAC supporting Krasner for DA.
It’s because of Krasner, McNesby says, that it’s not safe to be in Philadelphia anymore.
“He lets people out of jail. He cuts sweetheart deals. He has no respect for the community. He has no respect for the victims of crime,” McNesby says.
Krasner’s city allies, and there are many, have been tough on McNesby. McNesby is frequently pilloried by woke journalists and called a ‘racist’ at least a hundred times a year.
In 2017, a WHYY article by Abraham Gutman was published with the following headline: “Union leader’s racist comment makes him a bad rep for Philadelphia police.’
“Following the peaceful protest of a handful of Black Lives Matter activists outside the house of a police officer who shot in the back and killed 30-year-old black Philadelphian David Jones in June, McNesby called a “Back the Blue” rally. At that rally, McNesby called the activists “a pack of rabid animals,” Gutman wrote.
I asked McNesby about that comment.
“Oh, yes, the ‘rabid animal’ thing,” The FOP President said. “Well, I can tell you, they were out there throwing things at the officer’s house. I don’t care what you are: white, Ethiopian, Chinese, Iranian, black…if you are behaving like a thug then you are a thug.”
The WHYY attack piece on McNesby didn’t end there but went on to compare McNesby’s comment to the “dehumanizing rhetoric that the mid-century Nazis tactically used to make killing of Jews morally justifiable to their executioner.”
In June 2020 at Marconi Plaza outside what was then the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia, activists from various leftist communities called for the removal of the statue and came into direct confrontation with pro-Columbus statue South Philadelphians who wanted the statue to remain where it was.
The confrontation turned ugly when Captain Lou Campione, a 43-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, ordered an activist journalist to leave the plaza because “he was inciting a riot.”
The anti-Columbus group described the pro-Columbus protesters in a Tweet as “racist vigilantes with bats and guns at the statue of Christopher Columbus in South Philadelphia,” and added that “some of them just assaulted our reporter.”
As a result of the ruckus, Louis Campione, the Commander of the 1st District in South Philadelphia, was transferred to the Standards and Accountability Division.
McNesby, who objected to the transfer, said, “The Mayor and Police leadership are more concerned with appeasing the anarchist mobs descending upon our city and are less concerned about our citizens, our neighborhoods and the overall public safety of our great city.”
During the 2020 Presidential Election, McNesby was attacked by Krasner’s office after the national FOP organization endorsed Donald Trump for President. At that time, McNesby said in a statement that the Philadelphia FOP, which represents 6,500 members, made no an endorsement in the presidential race but would defer to the [national] union’s endorsement.
Almost immediately, Krasner’s campaign manager, Brandon Evans, said that, “John McNesby’s goal is to make sure that officers who cause harm are not held accountable in this town, and to return this city to the earlier days of an unequal and cruel justice system.
“That’s not what the Philly voters want, and it’s definitely not what the voters in the Democratic primary want.”
What do Philadelphia voters and citizens want? They don’t want social and political experiments. They want an end to the city homicide and gun violence epidemic; they want an end to the killing of children.