Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor who took office Jan. 1 as Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, told his staff not to bother with many cases of subway fare beating, resisting arrest and other nonviolent crimes — a move toward fulfilling his promise of criminal justice reform, the New York Daily News reports. Bragg promised that new initiatives and policies on guns, sex crimes, hate crimes, and other issues will be announced soon. Law enforcement unions were skeptical, fearing that the new policies would reduce cops’ legal tools to fight crime. Bragg’s memo gives his assistants many instructions on how to handle parts of New York’s penal code. Resisting arrest can be charged only if the person is resisting arrest for a serious crime — and the charge of obstructing governmental administration can be charged only against people who are aiding someone who is resisting arrest.
Bragg asked his staff not to pursue certain misdemeanor cases of trespassing — so long as they don’t involve stalking or crimes covered by laws meant to bar abuse by family members against each other. Burglary can only be prosecuted as having happened in someone’s home if suspects enter a place with direct access to a building’s residential space. Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said that although he had “serious concerns” about Bragg’s proposals, he was willing to talk them through with the new DA. “Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute. And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences,” Lynch said. Bragg said his policies will improve public safety and curb crime. “Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer,” he wrote.