Oz rallies to Pennsylvania law enforcement unions and charges Fetterman for felony

Doubling down on one of his most important lines of attack in this Pennsylvania Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared in Harrisburg with law enforcement officials and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday. to point out the differences between him and his opponent, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, on issues of public order.

Although U.S. senators only have an indirect role, at best, in influencing street crime, Oz said it was a recurring concern he heard about during the campaign trail, especially in Philadelphia, the most major city in the state, which is seeing a record number of homicides in 2021.

Sometimes operating on fact, and sometimes on credulity, Oz argued that Fetterman — known for his pro-mercy stance as chairman of the state Pardons Board and his strong support for the legalization of marijuana at recreational purposes – has the wrong approach.

“A lot of people inside, certainly in big cities, tell me they feel like they’re part of a social experiment where, and these are their words, woke white people make rules and they’re stuck with the issues,” Oz said. “It’s not done on purpose.

“But the result is unsafe communities because we’re experimenting and we’re not willing to look hard … at what’s really going on,” Oz said.

The full picture of crime rates is nuanced. The New York Times reported last month that homicides were down in the first half of 2022 after soaring in 2020 and 2021, but remain nearly 40% higher than before the pandemic.

Robberies and some property offenses posted double-digit increases.

Oz notably hammered Fetterman’s work on the Pardons Board — which views commuting life sentences for murderers — as being too cowardly with public safety and disrespectful to the survivors of crime victims.

“Even more concerning to me is his obsession with freeing murderers who have been convicted by a jury of their peers, sentenced to life in prison, and John Fetterman thinks he knows best,” Oz said, adding that Fetterman often voted for commutation against the wishes of the victims’ families.

In Pennsylvania, the Board of Pardons is only part of the commutation process. Inmate requests that receive a unanimous recommendation from the five-member council then go to the governor, who actually grants or denies the remedy.

In the past four years, according to board statistics, the board recommended 50 commutations — just over half of all requests — and Governor Tom Wolf granted 47. In the four years before Fetterman became Lieutenant Governor, the board recommended the commutation of only six life sentences.

It’s an approach, Oz argued Wednesday, “that seems to lend more credibility and seems to care more about the criminals than the innocent.” The people who were injured in these efforts.

Oz has also questioned what he sees as Fetterman’s softness in the war on drugs, whether it’s legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing certain other narcotics, which Fetterman argued years ago. .

Oz supported Oregon’s recent experiment with a broad drug decriminalization measure that eliminated most criminal consequences for possession of low levels of illicit drugs, but allowed police to issue offenses, similar to fines, for this possession. These tickets could be rejected if the recipients call a hotline offering drug testing.

The measure was aimed at reducing the criminal consequences of drug use and addiction, which advocates say should be treated as a public health problem.

But instead, according to legislative testimony this summer from Dr. Todd Korthuis, chief of addiction medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, the state had the lowest rates of drug use. highest and least access to treatment in the country.

Oregon also saw a nearly 20% increase in overdose deaths in the year ending April 2022, Korthuis said, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Fetterman, in 2020, endorsed the Oregon measure, although in this campaign his political platform begins and ends with his wholehearted support for the legalization of marijuana and the expungement of criminal records related to non-violent marijuana arrests.

Fetterman also highlighted gun control measures like red flag laws and universal background checks as a step toward ending the scourge of mass shootings, and he pledged to support criminal justice reforms aimed at improving racial and economic equity in the criminal justice system.

He also touted his frontline work on crime as mayor of Braddock, where he says one of his greatest accomplishments has been helping this small Allegheny County community and its police take advantage of a five-year pause in gun deaths.

Less credibly, Oz returned to the social media vault on Wednesday to hit out at Fetterman for a 2020 Tweet in which Fetterman voiced his support for policies moving away from last-generation mass incarceration policies that have saw the prison population at Pennsylvania State Prison grow from around 22,000 in 1990 to 50,156 in November 2013.

“John Fetterman, when he says he wants to free a third of all prisoners and that wouldn’t make anyone less safe, that’s an experience. This has never been tried before…Certainly right now is not the right time amidst the crime frenzy we find ourselves in, with skyrocketing rates of violence,” said Oz.

It was a strained reference to Fetterman’s endorsement of a statement he attributed to former Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, someone widely considered a thought leader on US corrections policy. .

Wetzel was known for thinking about ways to reduce the number of inmates in prisons, whether it be , in an interview, said he believed up to a third of state inmates could be released without any effect on public safety, whether through various ways of handling technical parole violations or the early release on compassionate grounds of largely disabled elderly inmates.

A spokesperson for Fetterman, Joe Calvello, told Politifact this summer that Fetterman’s references to cutting the prison population by a third were ambitious and in support of Wetzel’s goals, but never got off the ground. intended to be considered a political proposition, which Fetterman would never have had the power to become lieutenant governor anyway.

The fact-checking site called Oz’s claim “mostly untrue.”

Republican candidates nationwide have found crime to be an area where they can gain traction this campaign season.

Oz made no detailed proposals of his own on criminal justice on Wednesday, other than to say he wants to be a support resource in the Senate who will examine current crime trends, existing policies and try to d learn what can be done. to make things safer.

“It basically means leaving these people behind me to do their jobs, which we kind of lost our way to,” said Oz, flanked by union leaders from the Pennsylvania state police and municipal police forces in Pennsylvania. the whole state.

Oz also did not respond to questions when the event at the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association headquarters in Susquehanna Township ended.

But some local elected officials – all Republicans – said Oz’s willingness to engage with all stakeholders on the issue gives them a higher level of comfort whether it results in legislation or new grants to spur specific crime prevention or mental health programs.

“He’s been lieutenant governor for a while now, and my conversations with him have sucked,” York County District Attorney David Sunday said of Fetterman. “My experience has been that he has spent all of his time talking to people who in his mind may have a similar belief” on issues of crime.

Oz, meanwhile, took the time to meet with pastors, frontline police and prosecutors and ask them what they needed. “It’s like what we need,” Sunday said. “We need someone who wants to come in and talk and listen.”