NYC’s Top Prosecutor and New Police Commissioner Square Off on Public Safety

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Setting off what may be the country’s most high-profile clash over progressive prosecutor policies, Keechant Sewell, New York City’s new police commissioner, and newly-elected Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, are butting heads over their approaches to public safety. Sewell voiced concerns after reviewing a 10-page memo Bragg sent to his staff instructing prosecutors to avoid seeking jail or prison time for all but the most serious crimes, and to cease charging a number of lower-level crimes, reports the New York Times. In an email to about 36,000 members of the department, Sewell said she  is “very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims.”

Bragg pledged to help reshape the legal system, to avoid disproportionate punishment for first-time offenders or those struggling with mental health issues or poverty. Sewell’s largest concerns seem to be with Bragg’s decision to avoid charging misdemeanors for resisting arrest, which she said would send a message to police officers and others that there was “an unwillingness to protect those who are carrying out their duties,” and a policy to not seek jail time for gun possession without an accompanying charge, saying that it “affords people the opportunity to continually possess guns without consequence,” and calling it the issue that most directly affected officers’ safety. However, Bragg’s memo also said that all such requests must adhere to the law, a caveat that will significantly dilute some of the most far-reaching effects of his new policies.

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