Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. crime-priority memo spurs criticism
A memo from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. outlined his new administration's plan to go light on minor offenses and cap sentencing recommendations — sparking criticism Tuesday it will result in more gun violence.
During his election campaign to succeed the retiring Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg, a Democrat like his predecessor, and a former federal prosecutor, made it clear he wanted to cut back on sending some defendants to jail and avoid prosecuting offenses like subway fare evasion or traffic infractions.
On Monday, Bragg gave his staff their marching orders in the six-page memorandum.
In it, Bragg directed his assistant district attorneys to, among other things, not prosecute anyone for resisting arrest or committing other offenses like trespass, certain marijuana misdemeanors, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and prostitution, assuming there is no serious act of violence or underlying felony.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday, also said prosecutors will generally not seek bail or prison except in cases of homicide, domestic violence, public corruption or other major offenses with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors were also asked for the most part to seek prison sentences of no more than 20 years except in unusual circumstances.
In a statement Tuesday, New York Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said the PBA had serious concerns about the new Manhattan DA's memo and "the message these types of 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," said Lynch, whose union represents rank-and-file NYPD officers. "And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences."
The head of the Detective Endowment Association said the policies will result in more crime and increased shootings.
"In Bragg’s Manhattan, you can resist arrest, deal drugs, obstruct arrests, and even carry a gun and get away with it," said Paul Di Giacomo, president of the union representing 5,000 NYPD detectives. "Bragg gives criminals the road map to freedom from prosecution and control of our streets."
Bragg, in a preamble to the memo, recalled growing up in Harlem in the 1980s and having guns pointed at him — sometimes by cops — and more recently, witnessing people gunned down outside his home.
The memo recommended more investment in diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration.
Bragg’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment about the policy announcement. At an unrelated news conference Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams, when asked about the Bragg memo, said he hadn’t seen it.
In the coming days, Adams said, he will seek to hold talks about legislative changes with many in law enforcement, the State Legislature, and his new Manhattan district attorney.
"I believe Bragg will be open to engaging in that conversation," Adams said.