Keechant Sewell, the new commissioner of the New York Police Department, expressed concern for the safety of her officers after new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg outlined a progressive approach to crime.
What is the background?
Bragg released his “Day One” memo last Monday outing his vision for criminal prosecution in Manhattan.
The memo instructs prosecutors to stop prosecuting many low-level crimes, reduce charges for certain crimes, and advises against pursuing “a carceral sentence” — unless required by law — for crimes other than homicide, serious violent felony crimes “in which a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury,” domestic violence felonies, certain sex offenses, public corruption cases, and other white-collar crime.
What did Sewell say?
The new NYPD chief, the first woman to hold the position, sent a memo to NYPD officers late Friday night explaining her concerns with Bragg’s vision.
“As you all have likely heard by now, this week, the Manhattan District Attorney made public new policies about what charges the office would decline to prosecute and or downgrade. 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,” she said, WNBC-TV reported.
“I believe in criminal justice reform. I believe in reform that make sense when applied collaboratively,” Sewell explained. “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.”
Regarding Bragg’s plan to stop charging cases of resisting arrest and obstruction, Sewell questioned how police officers can safely do their jobs “if individuals are allowed to interfere with impunity.”
“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? Interactions between officers and the public will needlessly escalate because the incentive to cooperate (i.e. accountability) is entirely eliminated from the equation,” she said.
Sewell also warned that Manhattan will have “more open-air drug markets and drug use” because of Bragg’s lenient plan for drug offenses.
How did Bragg respond?
Bragg released a statement that said dialogue between his office and the NYPD is already ongoing, but did not say anything more.
“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,” the statement said. “This conversation, that has already started, is best done directly and not through the media.”