Philly's top cop cites disagreement with district attorney on how to curb gun violence

Without warning, the DA pulled prosecutors from detective divisions working illegal gun cases, she says

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's police commissioner says the district attorney has pulled all prosecutors who were working in police detective divisions to get illegal guns off the street — and it happened without warning. The city's top cop says she and the district attorney don't see "eye-to-eye," and they do not have the same priorities when it comes to curbing gun violence.

In the summer of 2020, District Attorney Larry Krasner stationed prosecutors inside the detective units as they worked together on illegal gun cases. Other DAs in the past, including Seth Williams, have done the same. But now the DA has pulled those prosecutors back.

A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office says the prosecutors have been "temporarily reassigned" because of a backlog of cases, and pandemic challenges.

Commissioner Danielle Outlaw says she was never told.

"Those DAs are no longer here, and we realized over the past several weeks they have been pulled without any communication," she said.

Outlaw says the Philadelphia Police Department has analyzed what drives the violence. They say much of it is based in drug trade and arguments — both in person and on social media — but many who illegally have guns are in and out of the courthouse.

She says she and Krasner are cordial and professional, but they are not on the same page.

"Professionally, we communicate regularly, yes, but fundamentally there are very key disconnects there as far as which crime we prioritize and who believes what are the main drivers of the violent crime we are seeing," Outlaw said.

"We have to agree on what the priorities are, but quite frankly we are just not there."

Jane Roh, representing the District Attorney's Office, says their top priority is making sure people who shoot people are "removed from the community and held accountable by the criminal justice systems." She released this statement:

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented enormous parenting and caretaking challenges for all working people, including DAO staff. As courts continue to hold more hearings, we have temporarily reassigned certain prosecutors and staff to address the backlog of criminal cases that developed over the past 18 months. Our specially assigned prosecutors and staff continue to work collaboratively with Philadelphia Police on shooting and homicide investigations, as those cases are and always have been our top priority.

We continue to look out for the well-being of our staff and the public at large, especially children and immunocompromised persons who are especially vulnerable, and do all we can to accommodate staff who have health and safety concerns. That has in some instances involved reassigning staff from spaces where COVID protocols, including masking and vaccination requirements, are not as stringent as the DAO’s (where approximately 98% of staff are fully vaccinated).

Again, our top priority as an office of prosecutors is making sure people who shoot other people are removed from the community and held accountable by the criminal justice system. In 2021 so far, just 29% of homicides and 15% of non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia have resulted in arrest – an unacceptably low rate of clearing the most serious violent crimes. We have long urged restructuring among all law enforcement entities to prioritize shooting and homicide investigations, including more dedicated training of detectives and greater use of forensic technologies to solve cases in which there are no willing eyewitnesses.

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