Manhattan, NY – New York City’s new police commissioner issued an email to the city’s officers Friday expressing her concern about their safety in light of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s plan to be more lenient with criminals.
Bragg unveiled his new 10-page, soft-on-crime policies on Jan. 3, ordering his staff to seek reduced charges for certain offenses, to stop asking for bail except in the most extreme cases, and to stop prosecuting so-called low-level offenses altogether, the New York Post reported.
Bragg said his office will no longer prosecute offenders accused of resisting arrest unless they are also charged for with a more serious felony offense.
Suspects arrested for armed robbery of a business will automatically have their charges reduced to misdemeanor petit larceny as long as they don’t use guns, don’t seriously injure anyone, and present no “genuine risk of physical harm,” Bragg said in his memo, according to the New York Post.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who recently took office after being appointed by New York Mayor Eric Adams, issued an email to the city’s police force Jan. 7.
“I have studied these policies and I am very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims,” Commissioner Sewell wrote, referring to Bragg’s directives.
“I am making my concerns known to the Manhattan District Attorney and hope to have frank and productive discussions to try and reach more common ground,” the commissioner added, according to the New York Post.
Commissioner Sewell said Bragg’s progressive approach tells law enforcement the city does not back them and that they are not protected, according to the paper.
Refusing to prosecute most instances of resisting arrest “will invite violence against police officers and will have deleterious effects on our relationship with the communities we protect,” the commissioner wrote in the email.
“In addition to gun possession, I am concerned that pretrial incarceration will no longer be sought for charges such as terrorism, criminal sale of a firearm, gun-point robberies … and other serious violent felonies that put the safety of the public and the police officers who have sworn to protect and serve at great risk,” Commissioner Sewell added, according to the New York Post.
The progressive policies will further erode the quality of life in New York City, she warned, adding that business owners are already reeling from a citywide explosion of brazen thefts.
“Commercial establishments have endured much during this pandemic and city government should do whatever it can to ensure they participate and thrive in the City’s ongoing recovery effort,” Commissioner Sewell wrote, according to the New York Post.
“The new charging policies of the Manhattan District Attorney effectively decriminalizes much of the conduct that New Yorkers are asking the police to address,” she added.
“If a person can get away with violating the law, not complying with a police officer’s direction and physically resisting the officer’s attempts to arrest them, what message are we sending?” the commissioner asked, according to WNBC. “Interactions between officers and the public will needlessly escalate because the incentive to cooperate (i.e., accountability) is entirely eliminated from the equation.”
Commissioner Sewell noted that she supports criminal justice reform “that makes sense when applied collaboratively,” the New York Post reported.
“In that same vein, I am concerned about sweeping edicts that seem to remove discretion, not just from police officers, but also from Assistant District Attorneys regarding what crimes to prosecute and how to charge them,” she wrote.
The city’s top cop told the NYPD’s uniformed officers “to do your jobs based on your training, direction by supervisors and enforce the law” while she tries to speak with Bragg to “seek a better balance between officer safety, public safety and reform,” the New York Post reported.
New York Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch said he has “serious concerns about the message” Bragg’s new policies send “to both police officers and criminals on the street.”
“Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute,” Lynch added.
Despite the backlash Bragg has received over his progressive policy changes, Adams has continued to back him, the New York Post reported.
“I know DA Bragg. I respect him, he’s a great prosecutor,” the mayor said.
Bragg released a statement Saturday saying it is his mission to hold criminals accountable and to keep residents safe, WNBC reported.
“We share Commissioner Sewell’s call for frank and productive discussions to reach common ground on our shared mission to deliver safety and justice for all and look forward to the opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings,” Bragg wrote.
“This conversation, that has already started, is best done directly and not through the media,” he added.