‘You gotta tune the car first’: Philly’s incoming DA prepares for day one

Listen 4:47
Philadelphia district attorney candidate Larry Krasner has never been a prosecutor. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia district attorney candidate Larry Krasner has never been a prosecutor. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s progressive incoming district attorney, intends to shake up the office upon being sworn in on Jan. 2. Krasner has just announced his transition team, which includes current and former politicians, as well as members of the legal and business communities.

The transition was already evident at Krasner’s Center City office Thursday, where boxes were stacked along the walls, and where NewsWorks Tonight’s Dave Heller spoke with him about his plans as the city’s top prosecutor. Click the play button above to listen to their conversation. 

Interview highlights

On how Krasner assembled his transition team:

“My goal is to assemble a group of people that have been incredibly effective and who don’t necessarily agree with me … There are business people here. There are people from elected office. We have one of the icons of progressive prosecution from the 1980s on this list in Elizabeth Holtzman. We have an ex-police commissioner in Sylvester Johnson. We have someone who was the president of Women Organized Against Rape and someone else who has been a leader in the victims’ rights community.”

On some Philly officers’ use of the #notmyDA hashtag and Krasner’s tense relationship with the city’s police union:

“Well, the nice thing about the internet is you can get one person to start a hashtag. I think that’s what happened there … To the extent they have a difference of opinion, they’re entitled to that. This is a democracy. I’m a huge defender of free speech and, even though I was discouraged by the head of the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] from going to speak to his membership, I did that … So the message I have for them is I respect hard-working, competent and honest law enforcement, and I respect them so much that I’m going to elevate them, and I’m going to push out of the way corrupt and brutal police officers who, frankly, have stood in their way, have taken their promotions, have taken their compensation by being the kids in the class who cheat.”

On how Krasner plans to change the culture at the DA’s office:

“To me this is very analogous to tuning a car … If you’re going to go racing, then you gotta tune the car first and then you can go achieve some things. We need to go into that office, and we need to make sure we have a core of leadership who share this vision — are incredibly hard-working and competent — and then we need to make sure that the policies are clear so that we can move forward. If you don’t change that culture by education, by having the right kind of leadership in place, by reorganizing that office properly … we will not see the change that the voters require — and they require it.”

On how he’d handle cases of repeat violent offenders who might be dangers to society:

“This is the core of the matter, that 6 percent of criminals commit 60 percent of serious crimes … Because my predecessors all over the country were spending so much time trying to increase the number of arrests and increase the number of convictions and giving them the maximum amount of time, their efforts were diluted, and they weren’t focusing on the people they needed to go after. They were using a one-size-fits-all approach when one size absolutely does not fit all. In this core group, you have to be very aggressive about making sure that the public are safe by appropriately lengthy periods of incarceration.”

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