Krasner’s First Real Test: How He Handles “Tainted Cops” List

The DA who campaigned on more transparency just struck gold with this institutional admission of bias in the criminal-justice system.

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens feel gaslighted for their distrust of local law enforcement. Every time a specific case occurs that provides clear evidence of either individual or institutional bias, their concerns are brushed aside with cries of “reasonable doubt.”

That’s why this week’s revelation that the previous district attorney’s administration kept a secret list of “tainted” police officers was such a welcome confirmation of long-held suspicions. The list of nearly two dozen cops who had been found guilty of lying, racial bias, or brutality by the Police Board of Inquiry was compiled in early 2017 as a guideline for prosecutors to determine if their testimony should be used in court. Although no names on the list have been released officially, sources told the Philadelphia Inquirer that some are related to two high-profile cases, including that of officer Reginald V. Graham, who arrested rapper Meek Mill in 2007, and now-fired detective Philip Nordo, who was involved in the murder charges against Darnell Powell.

Although he won’t speak to specific details about the list itself, new D.A. Larry Krasner describes the matter as “dealing with a list of people who have a proven track record of not being transparent.” In a recent public meeting with the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, Krasner confirmed that he is “not taking the list as is” and will be looking over it with his current staff over the next several weeks. It’s not too far-fetched to describe this discovery as striking gold for a man who ran a campaign that promised more transparency. This list was perhaps the unexpected parting gift the now-disgraced former D.A. Seth Williams left for his successor and the city at large.

Two reactions are circling my mind. I am in awe of the public validation that the city can no longer attempt to deny the sentiments of those who have known for a long time that there are corrupt cops among us. This list not only confirms that there are a few bad apples, but offers undeniable internal proof of misconduct that hits at the pulse of public mistrust of the city’s criminal-justice system. For many vulnerable citizens who have been put through the system, you now have to question how legitimate some of their charges were. In some cases, these cops weren’t found guilty simply of misbehaving on the job, but of potentially obstructing justice. Claiming that there are corrupt officers roaming our streets is no longer a matter of opinion, but now a proven fact.

Which brings me to my second thought: How many more culprits can be found? Two dozen problematic cops out of roughly 6,300 within the force doesn’t necessarily seem accurate. And while I would like to be optimistic that this list alone is the extent of the problem, I’m also reminded that the head of the administration that created the list is currently behind bars himself for corruption. The city has no other choice but to hope Krasner uses this list as a launch pad to further dig into a force that now has to hold itself more accountable for how they protect and serve us.

All of this is essentially good news for everyone, including the police department. Many of the city’s most vulnerable citizens can feel a sense of optimism knowing that their concerns are valid and something can be done about it. And institutions within our criminal-justice system can clear out the weeds that are further damaging their reputation. The next few months will be the ultimate test to see if the police can hold themselves as accountable as they attempt to do to others or whether it will take a wave of tougher investigations into their lack of transparency. Either way, I can walk around the city with a newfound sense of hope while belting out the words “I told you so.”