As Philadelphia and SEPTA police cadets graduated Friday, a storm was brewing between police union officials and new Philly DA Larry Krasner over how law enforcement officials should serve the city.
“You have been exposed to a ridiculous and dangerous presentation by the current district attorney of Philadelphia,” Philly police union president John McNesby wrote in a letter to Philly police cadets. “He has intentionally sought to endanger your lives by his outrageous effort to ‘instruct’ you on the use of your firearm. You are officially urged to completely disregard his dangerous and despicable remarks.”
Krasner’s office denied the FOP’s claims, with spokesman Ben Waxman calling them a “total lie” on Twitter.
At issue is a talk Krasner gave to a group of police cadets held by the Guardian Civic League, Philly’s black police officers union, on Wednesday evening.
McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, claims Krasner ‘intentionally’ endangered future police officers’ lives with bad advice about firearm usage.
Krasner’s spokesman Ben Waxman denied on Twitter that the DA made such statements.
“He laid out several hypothetical scenarios where the DA’s office would charge or not charge officers based on the facts and the law. As part of those examples, he talked about the use of force in different situations,” Waxman wrote. “He did not instruct the cadets on their use of force. The purpose of the event was to assist young officers in avoiding problems during their careers. District Attorney Krasner stands by the statements he made at that time.”
Krasner’s comments that apparently drew McNesby’s ire came while discussing a case in which a mentally ill man seated inside a car tries to grab an officer’s gun, and is shot by three officers. (Such a case did occur in the August shooting of Tyreas Carlyle, but Krasner’s office said the DA was not talking about any specific case).
“Perhaps if there hadn’t been such an eagerness to shoot for center mass they might not have gotten the same result,” Krasner said. “Could there be an issue with training? Perhaps, and I have in fact spoken to the police commissioner about that. … Maybe there are issues about thinking before you put a gun within the reach of a person who has none. Maybe there are issues about whether every shot’s got to be center mass. Maybe there are issues there, but that does not mean those officers did anything wrong.”
Most American police departments train officers to shoot armed suspects in “center mass” — the chest and torso area.
As Dr. Cedric Alexander, a former police chief and policing expert who currently serves as deputy mayor of Rochester, NY, explained it to CNN, “The whole notion of shooting him in the leg, or shooting the knife out of someone’s hand in a stressful situation, that’s all television. That does not work in life. … Police are trained to shoot center mass.”
The DA’s office posted video on Youtube of the talk in question on Friday.
Watch: [Caryle case discussion begins around 3:15. ‘Center mass’ comments begin around 5:00.]