Updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 3:58 PM
Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for Philadelphia district attorney, whose candidacy has rankled some in the city’s police union, was endorsed Wednesday by the Guardian Civic League, an organization of black Philadelphia police officers.
Rochelle Bilal, the group’s president, said Krasner — who has focused on advocating for civil rights during his career — was the candidate who best embodied the values of her organization, which was formed in 1956 to bring African American officers together and to offer services to members. She declined to say how many current members the group has, but said it was more than 2,000.
Standing alongside Bilal at a news conference at the organization’s headquarters on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia, Krasner said that the Guardian Civic League “has stood up for the rights of all people,” and that he looked forward to working with it.
The support is if nothing else a symbolic boost for Krasner, a career defense attorney and the presumptive front-runner to become the city’s next top prosecutor. Despite a convincing win in May’s primary election, one constituency that has been reluctant to embrace Krasner’s candidacy has been the local Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 14,000 active and retired officers from the city’s Police Department and Sheriff’s Office.
Krasner’s campaign has centered on reforms to the criminal justice system, including pledges to never seek the death penalty, to reduce the use of cash bail for nonviolent offenders, and to end what he calls “mass incarceration.” As a civil rights attorney, Krasner sued the government or law enforcement 75 times, and during the campaign he criticized the District Attorney’s Office as being too determined to uphold convictions and too willing to overlook police misconduct.
The city’s Spanish American Law Enforcement Association, which has about 500 members, voted recently to support Krasner’s opponent, Republican Beth Grossman, according to Officer Eddie Lopez Sr., the organization’s president.
Some officers in the department are worried that a victorious Krasner would be overeager to prosecute police. Lopez said his group’s members felt that Krasner’s campaign “has been really strong against police, and we feel as of this moment that police officers are going to end up second-guessing” their actions if Krasner is in office.
“If there’s a critical police shooting, is he going to rush to judgment and charge a police officer, or take his time and do the right thing and give us the fair chance we should have?” Lopez asked.
In May, John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5, called some of Krasner’s supporters “the parasites of the city” after a small group at Krasner’s primary victory party chanted a profane slogan about the FOP.
“His election to that position would be catastrophic to the department and the community as a whole,” McNesby said at the time.
Bilal said she had heard some worries from police about a potential Krasner win, but said she didn’t think many of the criticisms of him were valid.
“As long as [officers] do their job … I believe this DA will do his job accordingly,” she said.
Krasner likewise said that he supports the work of honest and hardworking officers.
“I am a huge fan of good police,” he said. “I will stand by them.”
McNesby and Krasner met earlier this month to seek peace. Both men described that meeting — brokered by U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee — as productive. McNesby said that both Krasner and Grossman would get a chance to seek the union’s endorsement.
Krasner said Tuesday that he had not yet met with the FOP’s members, but anticipated doing so.
Attempts to reach McNesby for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Bilal said Grossman had not reached out to her organization for support.
If Bilal ends up bucking the FOP’s political stance in this election, it wouldn’t be the first time. Last year, she opposed the national FOP’s decision to endorse Donald Trump for president.