NYC’s top cop: Manhattan DA’s new policies will put officers in danger

“The message this policy sends to police officers providing vital services in this city is that, in Manhattan, there is an unwillingness to protect those who are carrying out their duties.”

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A raft of policy changes made by newly-minted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is getting pushback from New York’s top cop.

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, in a message to officers Friday, said Bragg’s plan to decriminalize minor crimes, including resisting arrest, has raised concerns “about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims.”

“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,” Sewell wrote. “As police commissioner, your safety is my paramount concern. That is one reason I am seeking to have conversations with the district attorney to seek a better balance between officer safety, public safety and reform.”

As one of his first acts in office, Bragg, a former federal prosecutor sworn in Jan. 1 as Manhattan’s first Black DA, fired off a 10 page memo to his staff, telling them not to bother with many cases of fare beating, resisting arrest, obstruction of government administration and other nonviolent crimes.

“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime,” Bragg wrote in a memo dated Tuesday.

Sewell disagreed, arguing that if people can’t be charged with resisting arrest or obstructing government administration, they may feel emboldened to fight with cops making lawful arrests.

“The message this policy sends to police officers and other public servants providing vital services in this city is that, in Manhattan, there is an unwillingness to protect those who are carrying out their duties,” Sewell wrote. “I strongly believe that this policy injects debate into decisions that would otherwise be uncontroversial, will invite violence against police officers and will have deleterious effects on our relationship with the communities we protect. It is also hard to understand how officers can carry out their daily responsibilities if individuals are allowed to interfere with impunity.”

Bragg also wants his prosecutors to pursue petit larceny charges, a misdemeanor, against suspects initially charged with armed robbery in a commercial setting, provided they didn’t “create a genuine risk of physical harm.”

Sewell was outraged.

“A gun-point robbery is a gun-point robbery,” she wrote. “It should be immaterial to a victim (be it a store owner, minimum wage employee, or a member of the public) that it happened in a commercial establishment as opposed to on the street, and the assailant should face the full consequences of the law.”

“I have strongly recommended to the Manhattan District Attorney not to go forward with a policy that treats felony gun-point robberies of our commercial establishments as misdemeanor shoplifting offenses,” she added. “Every time one of you makes an arrest of an armed individual the risk to your safety is increased significantly.”

Ahead of bringing her concerns directly to Bragg, Sewell recommended Manhattan cops “make appropriate memo book entries that support the arrest charges” they file.

“Before signing a complaint, ensure that all the relevant facts known to you as the arresting officer are included even if the charges are downgraded,” she wrote.

©2022 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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