Larry Krasner, fresh off of being elected Philadelphia’s next top prosecutor, appears to be wasting no time in addressing the elephant in the DA’s Office.
In a letter addressed to “Attorneys and Staff of the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia,” emailed Friday, Krasner implored those in the office who share his progressive ideals ”to join this movement to help build and re-build a District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia that can do better and do more for victims, for witnesses, for defendants (the innocent and the guilty), for law enforcement, and for society at large.”
But Krasner also acknowledged that his election was not met with excitement by everyone in the office. To them, he tried to offer some reassurance.
“Please do not be frightened by what others may have told you,” Krasner wrote. “Many months of effort have been spent gathering useful information from some of the best modern prosecutors in the country with the intent of bringing the best policies and practices home to Philadelphia. I am aware that there have been rumors that I will ‘fire everyone.’ That is not true. I am also aware of rumors that I will require everyone’s immediate resignation, as one of my predecessors actually did. That is also untrue. Rumors that I have already made employment decisions are likewise false.”
Instead, Krasner promised “a thoughtful, thorough and fair process,” but added: “It is likely that as part of that process some employees will be asked to resign, as is routine.”
“Others will be asked to resign and offered the opportunity to re-apply, in a process similar to the one used recently by our current Pa. attorney general,” the letter continued. “And you should expect the organizational chart will change, with new positions being created and some current positions being eliminated. As in any effective organization, all employees will be reviewed periodically for performance.”
With nearly 75 percent of the vote, Krasner handily defeated Republican candidate Beth Grossman on Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether his transition into the role will go as smoothly.
Krasner, who has spent decades working as a criminal defense and civil rights attorney but has never served as a prosecutor, ran on a campaign of sweeping criminal justice reform, including no longer seeking the death penalty and working to change the city’s cash bail and civil asset forfeiture systems.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday afternoon said nobody had submitted any resignations as of the morning after the election, and First Assistant District Attorney John Delaney said the mood of the office Wednesday was one of anticipation.
“People are looking forward to Larry Krasner taking over the office, and are committed to continuing to do their work and working with him and his staff to ensure an orderly transition,” Delaney said.
However, some attorneys said the transition will likely be difficult.
Richard Sax is not a Krasner supporter. Sax spent 37 years focusing on prosecuting homicide cases in the DA’s Office before retiring in April, and he said he is worried about the reforms Krasner advocated, in particular not seeking to prosecute some non-violent drug crimes.
“To the law-abiding citizens who have their car broken into, or a low-level drug dealer on their corner … I would say those are significant. They destroy people’s quality of life,” he said.
Sax said Krasner’s campaign has alienated some in law enforcement, and could lead some prosecutors to leave. Also, firing well-liked top brass in the office could have a lasting effect on the office, he said.
But in his letter Friday, Krasner sought to quell divisiveness by showing that he and his future employees are not so different after all.
“I am excited to work with you, with few exceptions,” he said. “I have always respected your good fight. I hope you have respected my good fight. Like me, many of you sacrificed more lucrative opportunities and easier lifestyles in order to pursue justice. You deserve credit for making that choice.”
On Friday, a spokesman for Krasner declined to comment beyond what was in the letter.
A spokesman for the DA’s Office also declined to comment.