In recent months, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has claimed he has made repeated calls for enhanced forensic technologies to bolster the city’s police department amid a generational spike in gun crime, homicides, and carjackings.
However, Broad + Liberty filed a Right to Know Law request seeking all the correspondence in the past year Mr. Krasner has communicated those requests, either by email or regular mail.
There are no such documents.
Specifically, Broad + Liberty asked for: “A copy of any correspondence (physical, or email, including any attachments if email) between District Attorney Larry Krasner and any Pennsylvania State Representative, any Pennsylvania State Senator, or any member of the Philadelphia City Council as well as the Mayor, in which criminal forensic technologies are discussed as a subject matter. Please use a date range of Jan. 1, 2021, to and including Jan. 21, 2022.”
“The [district attorney’s office] was unable to locate records responsive to your request,” Krasner’s office said in reply.
As the homicide rate pushed towards an unprecedented annual record of 500 last November, Krasner leaned on this reasoning amid increased scrutiny.
For example, a video report from NBC10 in Philadelphia quoted Krasner saying, “One of the most important solutions to these issues is having a real forensic capacity; for this to be a city where you can take what you have at a crime scene, and you can move the question along quickly.”
The reporter closed by paraphrasing another Krasner assertion that Philadelphia is “decades behind other cities when it comes to forensics, a valuable tool he [Krasner] says could get criminals off the streets at a quicker pace.”
Twice in a newsletter, Krasner repeated his claim that the push for better, newer forensics was a campaign he had labored on for some time.
“In order to turn the tide on the wave of gun violence communities across the country are experiencing, we must stop doing things that have never worked and start innovating, including by relying on forensic science and technology to solve more cases,” he wrote in his November email newsletter, under the subject line “Justice Journal.”
“I will continue to call on city government and our partners in law enforcement to invest the tens of millions of dollars needed for modern technologies that could revolutionize our ability to solve more cases and get more shooters off the streets faster,” he wrote in January.
And in a press conference on January 11th, Krasner told members of the media that “we don’t have the forensics in the city of Philadelphia…it’s part of a bigger topic. You’ve heard me speak of it many times.”
Yet for all those claims, the Philadelphia D.A.’s office cannot produce a single email over a year-long period that shows Krasner advocating for forensic technologies with elected officials who could make such a request happen in reality.
A request for comment to the district attorney’s office to explain where Krasner has explained or described the city’s forensic needs was not returned.
Similarly, Broad + Liberty asked Mayor Kenney’s office if it could voluntarily produce any communications of the kind sought in the original open records request filed with Krasner’s office. The mayor’s office referred us to the district attorney’s office.
This week, Krasner once again reiterated his public calls for forensics technology, this time in the form of a multi-million dollar forensics lab. It remains to be seen whether his office will actually contact elected officials to make such a lab happen in Philadelphia.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports