THE BIG TALK
An occasional interview series with Americans who are challenging the status quo.
“My great-grandfather was a cop in Sicily, and my grandfather was a barber, and my father was a cop,” he said. “I grew up a cop in a cop family. Everyone in the Gerace family is either a cop or a barber.”
Cutting hair didn’t interest him.
The Philadelphia Police Department hired him when he was 19 years old and swore him at 20. He never envisioned a day when he would find himself at odds with the city’s law-and-order institutions, but that’s where he is.
Mr. Gerace, 42, is off the beat and is serving as president and treasurer of Protect Our Police PAC, a fledgling organization that has one goal: to oust the district attorneys who took office with campaigns bankrolled by the political action committees of billionaire liberal activist George Soros.
These cities have reported soaring homicide and shooting rates. Philadelphia, under Soros-backed District Attorney Larry Krasner, also endured considerable violence and damage during scattered protests in 2020.
“You can look at every city that has a George Soros-appointed DA, and it’s utter chaos,” Mr. Gerace said. “It’s a complete breakdown of the system, and it’s exactly what Larry Krasner was put in office to do. He’s doing exactly what he wants to do. In his eyes, he’s successful. In the eyes of normal people, he’s a failure and a fraud.”
Mr. Krasner said he is holding police accountable for misconduct and brutality and is helping uplift long-oppressed communities of color with more lenient sentencing, parole and probation policies.
The Protect Our Police PAC is Philadelphia’s way of confronting Mr. Krasner, a longtime defense lawyer who sued the police department dozens of times before making his first political bid with more than $1.4 million in campaign cash from Mr. Soros’ PACs.
In Los Angeles, deputy district attorneys have filed lawsuits against their boss, George Gascon, and a recall petition is circulating. In St. Louis, where the Police Officers Association’s lawsuit against Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner was dismissed, seething cops began retrenching after Ms. Gardner was reelected in November.
In 2017, the year before Mr. Krasner took office, 79% of Philadelphia’s homicide victims were Black, according to crime statistics. In 2020, when homicides jumped 40% from the previous year to a near-record 499, 86% of the victims were Black.
Blacks also were disproportionately victims in shootings last year. While Blacks comprise roughly 44% of the city’s population, 84% of the victims in Philadelphia’s 2,236 shootings were Black, according to police figures.
In other words, more people are being killed and shot, and more of them are Black, than at any other point in the 21st century. Mr. Gerace reminds people that it has happened under Mr. Krasner’s regime.
While Mr. Krasner sharply reduced the number of incarcerated people in Philadelphia, the percentage of incarcerated people who are Black ticked up.
The POP PAC is trying to remind motorists of the frightful numbers by taking out billboards over Interstate 95, which slices through Philadelphia’s eastern edge by the Delaware River. The PAC does not plan to endorse a candidate in the May primary, but it is urging residents to donate, visit the FireKrasner.com website and change their political affiliation to Democratic so they can vote against Mr. Krasner.
The city has always had some level of violence, and Mr. Gerace saw his share during 12 years with the police department.
“I showed up to a shooting at Hyde Park once where the two bad guys were shooting, and on the ground was 2 kilos of coke, and in the car was about another 3 or 4 kilos of coke,” he said. “In another one, a guy called for backup, and he came over the radio — this guy was a pretty cool cat, but he was a little disturbed — he said, ‘Don’t come in fast, but I need backup.’
“We get over there, man, three bad guys had a shootout. It was a Hollywood movie,” he said. “Two of them were slumped over each other at the door, the other one was dead in the kitchen. Probably $30-$40,000 cash on the table, guns, all kinds of drugs. That was pretty wild.”
Mr. Gerace even had a part as an extra in a movie shot not too far from his Copland roots at the old Eastern State Penitentiary, whose somber Gothic towers loom above I-95’s southbound lanes.
But what is happening in the city now is nothing glamorous, Mr. Gerace said.
Mr. Krasner’s unwillingness to prosecute some nonviolent felonies and his efforts to get people out of jail have made the city less safe, according to POP PAC, and Democratic kingpins Mr. Krasner and Mayor Jim Kenney are not up to the job.
“You can’t do a social experiment on the backs of the citizens of Philadelphia and run the risk of losing their life,” he said. “We’ve never had any issues at all until this new regime with Kenney, who is a bozo and a fraud that doesn’t have any guts to do anything, and we have a police commissioner who is in way over her head, and we have a district attorney who is more interested in getting people killed than locking them up,” Mr. Gerace said.
Mr. Gerace may view the past with exceptionally rosy glasses, given that Philadelphia has had its share of police scandals. In 2015, dozens of drug cases were tossed because of corruption allegations involving an elite narcotics squad. In 1985, the department’s run-ins with the anarchist MOVE group ended when police dropped a bomb on the radicals’ headquarters. The bomb blew up most of one side of a city block and killed 11 people.
But when it comes to handling the sort of riots that broke out in Philadelphia last year, Mr. Gerace said, Mr. Krasner and his City Hall cohorts threw out the playbook Mr. Gerace helped create while working as a plainclothes undercover “protester” during the 2000 Republican National Convention.
“They say they had no blueprint for how to deal with what was happening,” he said. “Well, yeah, there was and they didn’t follow it. It was lawful, it’s done tactfully with modern-day policing. It wasn’t the 1960s with letting the dogs out and firehoses. It was done the way it should be done: Arrested protesters peacefully, quickly processed them and got them booked. We got them in and out of jail quickly. We kept cops on the street, not off the street.”
Mr. Gerace is focused exclusively on trying to defeat Mr. Krasner’s reelection bid, but POP PAC is working toward a national profile. In 2020, more than 200 candidates sought the group’s endorsement, and it wound up endorsing 69 candidates who won elections in 17 states. The PAC boasts that dozens of the candidates were former cops, veterans and women.
The group said it made more than $250,000 in contributions.
That kind of money once might have made a difference in a district attorney race, but not with Mr. Soros’ Justice & Public Safety PACs. Big cities gripped by violent crime have made headlines, but Mr. Soros also has been funding races in much smaller municipalities in New York state, Virginia, California and elsewhere.
“Right now, we’re hyperfocused on Larry Krasner, who is the poster boy for George Soros’ vision of a law-and-order breakdown. He’s the first huge domino we have to topple,” Mr. Gerace said. “After we get done with Krasner, we’ll move on to the next city, and we’ll have a plan and the know-how and the experience.”
It all still seems far-fetched for a Philadelphia native son.
“No, I never envisioned something like this whatsoever because it goes so against common sense,” he said. “This new policy of defund the police and Marxism that’s taken over, they want to destabilize the city, and they’re doing exactly that. You can look at every city that has a George Soros-appointed DA, and it’s utter chaos. It’s what they want, and it’s what they’re out to do, and they’re getting it done because we let it happen.”
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