“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,” Sewell, appointed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, said in the memo obtained by WNBC. “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. 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.”
On his third day in office, Bragg released a sweeping memo instructing his office not to prosecute certain low-level offenses, including resisting arrest, marijuana misdemeanors, prostitution and evading subway or bus fare and trespassing. He also told prosecutors to downgrade charges for most low-level drug dealers and called for leniency for commercial robberies – to instead treat hold-ups that did not result in injury and demonstrated “no genuine risk of physical harm” as misdemeanor petit larceny, not a felony.
Sewell argued in the internal memo how not prosecuting resisting arrest or obstruction “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.”
“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?” Sewell wrote. “Interactions between officers and the public will needlessly escalate because the incentive to cooperate (i.e. accountability) is entirely eliminated from the equation.”
Bragg’s approach could also lead to “more open-air drug markets and drug use in Manhattan,” increased subway crime and dangers for officers as some firearm suspects skirt pre-trial detention, Sewell said.
“I believe in criminal justice reform. I believe in reform that make sense when applied collaboratively,” the police commissioner wrote in the memo, also obtained by the New York Post. “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.”
Bragg’s office responded early Saturday to reports about Sewell’s concerns, clarifying that his office will indeed prosecute a gunpoint store hold-up even if no one is injured.
“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,” Bragg said in a statement. “This conversation, that has already started, is best done directly and not through the media.”
“In the meantime, I want all New Yorkers to know that safety is paramount for our office,” he continued. “I’ve prosecuted gun cases and if you use a gun to rob a store, or any armed robbery, you will be prosecuted for a felony. I’ve prosecuted cases involving assaulting law enforcement, and if you punch a police officer, you will be prosecuted for a felony. All must be held accountable for their actions.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Adams’ office Sunday seeking comment about Sewell’s concerns.
This comes as Adams at least publicly seemed to back Bragg’s approach, according to the New York Post.
Adams was the center of controversy this week over his pick for deputy mayor despite ethics concerns. Philip Banks resigned from the New York City Department in 2014 and was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a federal corruption investigation that resulted in several convictions.
Adams also appointed his brother, a retired NYPD sergeant, as deputy NYPD police commissioner.