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NYPD Commissioner Has “Specific Issues” With Manhattan District Attorney’s New Prosecution Policies

In a memo to New York City Police employees, the newly appointed city police commissioner raised red flags over criminal justice reforms unveiled by Manhattan’s top prosecutor earlier this week and said that he is concerned about “radical edicts” that could have a dramatic impact on surveillance.

The memo, which was sent to the department Friday night by Keechant Sewell, questioned whether new reforms by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would help or hinder the protection of officers, the public and victims of crime.

Bragg issued a response to Sewell’s concerns the next morning, reiterating his mission to keep New Yorkers safe and hold criminals accountable to the law.

“We share Commissioner Sewell’s call for frank and productive discussions to reach common ground in our shared mission of providing security and justice for all and look forward to the opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings. This conversation, which has already begun, is best done directly. and not through the media, “he said in a statement.

Our sister chain NBC New York obtained the memo that Sewell sent to New York City Police officers around 8:30 p.m. and directly rejects the newly elected district attorney’s plan announced this week to stop prosecuting certain crimes.

“As you have probably heard by now, this week the Manhattan district attorney released new policies on charges that the office would refuse to prosecute or lower. I have studied these policies and am very concerned about the implications for your safety as law enforcement officers. police, public safety and justice for victims, “Sewell’s memo read. “I am making my concerns known to the Manhattan district attorney and I look forward to having frank and productive discussions to try to get to more common ground.”

The commissioner stated in the memo that she is seriously concerned that Bragg’s move will affect the safety of police officers and the public.

“I believe in criminal justice reform. I believe in reform that makes sense when applied collaboratively, ”Sewell says in the memo. “In the same vein, I am concerned by blanket edicts that seem to take away the discretion, not only of police officers, but also of assistant district attorneys regarding what crimes to prosecute and how to charge them.”

Sewell also claims that the policy sends a message to officers that there is no will to protect those who are performing their duties. That’s because the list of crimes the district attorney has told their prosecutors they will no longer prosecute as felonies includes resisting arrest, plus misdemeanors related to marijuana, fee evasion, trespassing. of dwelling and prostitution.

Sewell said refusing to prosecute crimes such as resisting arrest or obstruction “injects debate into decisions that would otherwise be uncontroversial” and could lead to violence against officers or damage the relationship the police have with their communities.

“If a person can get away with breaking the law, failing to comply with a police officer’s instructions, and physically resisting the officer’s attempts to arrest him, what message are we sending? Interactions between officers and the public will increase unnecessarily because the incentive to cooperate (ie accountability) is completely removed from the equation, “wrote Sewell, skeptical of how officers can do their job” if people are allowed to interfere with impunity. “

Bragg’s plan also called for leniency with certain crimes, including commercial robberies in which threats are made with a weapon, but there is no real risk of physical harm. Those would be treated as a misdemeanor, like shoplifting, not a felony. Bragg said earlier this week that the reforms help serve as alternatives to incarceration and would allow prosecutors to focus on more serious crimes.

“A robbery at gunpoint is robbery at gunpoint: for the victim (be it a store owner, a minimum wage employee or a member of the public) it should be indifferent that it happened in a commercial establishment and not on the street and the aggressor must face all the consequences of the law, “objected Sewell.

Sewell warned of “more open-air drug markets and drug use in Manhattan” as a result of the proposed lowered drug charges, and a possible increase in subway violence as a result of the removal of the fare evasion prosecution. He was also concerned that getting rid of pretrial detention for suspects caught with firearms could put officers’ lives at risk.

“As a Police Commissioner, your safety is my main concern. That is one of the reasons I seek to have discussions with the district attorney to seek a better balance between officer safety, public safety and reform, ”the memo said.

“We can get the justice we deserve, and I think District Attorney Bragg will be willing to participate in that conversation,” Adams said earlier in the week in response to the district attorney’s plan.

The announcement comes the same day the mayor was mired in controversy. He selected a deputy mayor for public safety who in the past was an uncharged accomplice in a major corruption case. The feds never charged Philip Banks, who apologized today for past mistakes but said he hopes to help make the city safer in his new role.

Adams also selected his brother, a retired New York City Police sergeant, to serve as a deputy commissioner within the NYPD.

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