District Attorney Larry Krasner’s recent remarks about whether we are experiencing a crime crisis are some of the worst, most ignorant, and most insulting comments I have ever heard spoken by an elected official.
At a Monday press briefing, Krasner told reporters: “We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.”
It takes a certain audacity of ignorance and white privilege to say that right now. As of Monday night, 521 people, souls, spirits have been vanquished, eliminated, murdered in our City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, the most since 1960. I have to wonder what kind of messed up world of white wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost, many of them Black and brown, while he advances his own national profile as a progressive district attorney.
I’d like to ask Krasner: How many more Black and brown people, and others, would have to be gunned down in our streets daily to meet your definition of a “crisis”? How many more children and teens have to die in record numbers to capture your attention, and be considered a “crisis”? How many more moms, dads, spouses, and friends need to shed tears over the loss of a loved one for you to call it a “crisis”?
Words matter. Words impact, and trigger, and hurt. Words mean something from elected officials. Krasner should publicly apologize to the 521 families of dead victims and the thousands of those maimed by gun wounds this year. He has ignored the pain of the living and insulted the memory of the dead.
Krasner should also use his words to send a message to the shooters, murderers, and criminals of this city by committing to actually prosecute them, rather than coddle them, make excuses, reduce or drop charges. He should commit to locking them up for carrying illegal weapons or shooting people.
If Krasner does not have the fortitude or the guts to carry out those duties, he should resign and turn things over to someone who is not trying to sell Philadelphians on the false choice of having either public safety or police reform.
Philadelphians can have — and deserve — both.
I know it is possible because when I was mayor, we laid the foundation for this work.
In 2013, Philadelphia experienced the lowest number of homicides since 1968. We reduced the prison population by about 2,000 people. We reduced the number of police officer-involved shootings. The Philadelphia Police Department became accredited for the first time in history. We weren’t perfect. As mayor, I made plenty of mistakes — but I didn’t blame the press or Harrisburg. The people of Philadelphia knew that I cared about their safety and that I was working to stop abuses within the Police Department.
But under Krasner’s anti-police narrative, most of that work has been reversed. Krasner portrays himself as the Great White Hope for Philadelphia’s Black and brown communities, but if he actually cared about us, he’d understand that the homicide crisis is what is plaguing us the most.
As an older Black man from West Philly, I know that many Black people are not actually against the police. We’re just against the police who brutalize us. Many of us respect the police, appreciate the good work of so many who risk their lives every day to deal with some of the most dangerous and difficult people in this city in a professional and sensitive manner.
Growing up in West Philly in the 1960s and ‘70s, I saw the good and bad of police and community relations. But at the end of the day, there are only two things that really matter:
First: When something goes down, people call 911 and expect a professionally trained police officer to show up, treat them with dignity and respect, and handle the issue.
Second: People want to be able to safely walk down the street, have their children play outside or go to school, be able to go to the supermarket, or church, or synagogue, or mosque in safety and peace.
As someone who has lived the experience of a Black man in Philadelphia and worked at the highest level of city government, I see that police and judges are trying to keep Philadelphians safe, but Krasner is not. No matter what he says, this city is experiencing a crisis of violence and murder. If he can’t see that, he is unfit to serve the residents of Philadelphia.
Michael A. Nutter was a two-term mayor of Philadelphia from 2008 through 2016.