NEW YORK — Big changes coming out of the new Manhattan district attorney’s office have sparked controversy among law enforcement.
Newly sworn-in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released an internal policy memo this week outlining criminal offenses he will no longer prosecute, including fare beating, marijuana misdemeanors, resisting arrest, trespassing, and prostitution — as long as they do not accompany other felonies.
Reaction to the memo came swiftly, with The Legal Aid Society praising the move, calling it a “substantive first step to reform an office that long resorted to making excessive bail requests and overcharging our clients.”
Law enforcement groups, however, felt differently.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association urged officers to be “hyper-vigilant” when dealing with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, according to a statement sent out on Friday. Meanwhile, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Bragg’s plan sends the wrong message.
“Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute,” he said. “And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences.”
Bragg on Sunday joined PIX on Politics host Dan Mannarino to discuss the controversy, saying he was elected to “deliver safety and justice” for all Manhattan residents.
“And one thing is clear: the status quo is not working. Gun violence is on the rise, domestic violence is on the rise, sexual assault continues to be the most underreported violent crime,” he said. “So, we’ve got work to do, and this plan is going to make us safer.”
Bragg said his policy on alternatives to incarceration will get offenders the services they need and “clear the room” so that he can pursue the types of cases he’s gone after his entire career, with gun violence at the top of his list.
In response to pushback from police unions, Bragg said some of the statements that were made about the policy are wrong.
“Read the policy. I have prosecuted people who have assaulted law enforcement. You hit a law enforcement officer, you’re going to be prosecuted,” he said.
When asked about whether armed robbery could become petit larceny, Bragg completely dismissed the assertion, saying that is not what his policy says.
“The policy is very, very clear. You go into a store with a gun to rob someone, that is going to be prosecuted … The policy is crystal clear on that,” he said. “If you walk in with a gun and stick a store up, that’s a robbery.”
Bragg said misinformation, spread by people who do not want his policy to succeed, is sowing doubt and creating fear.
“I don’t know what their motives are,” he added.