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What Does Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner Do Now?

The Atlantic: Ronald Brownstein - September 23, 2022

Larry Krasner has been at the forefront of the progressive-prosecutor movement since becoming Philadelphia’s district attorney in 2017. Which means that he has also been at the center of an unending storm.

Krasner has faced relentless battles with the police union, other local elected officials, and Republicans who control the Pennsylvania state legislature and are now making an unprecedented effort to impeach him. He’s also won support from many community leaders and criminal-justice-reform advocates. On Wednesday he reached a milestone: His office won a manslaughter conviction against a Philadelphia police officer for shooting a Black man in 2017—the first such conviction for on-duty action in Philadelphia in at least half a century.

Yet, like other progressive prosecutors in major cities from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco, his political position remains precarious. These prosecutors received a huge burst of momentum from the nationwide protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. And they have an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing jail and prison populations, elevating alternatives to incarceration (particularly for juvenile offenders), emphasizing community services over tough enforcement to reduce gun violence, and imposing greater accountability for police-officer misconduct. (Beyond Wednesday’s conviction, Krasner is pursuing murder cases against two other police officers; previously no murder case involving a Philadelphia police officer had gone to trial in almost 40 years, The Philadelphia Inquirer found.)

But rising crime rates have weakened these prosecutors’ standing. Though violent crime, particularly homicides, remains far below its peak, in the 1990s, the rates in many major cities spiked at the height of the pandemic to levels far above the totals earlier in this century—and have remained stubbornly high since. As of Monday, Philadelphia, for instance, has experienced 388 homicides this year, slightly more than in 2021 and double the number through that date as recently as 2015.

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