When new Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg announced new policies, one change that met pushback was that Bragg would no longer prosecute those who resisted arrest. A review of court records indicates that the type of resisting arrest cases Bragg’s prosecutors will no longer pursue are exceedingly rare, suggesting that some of the resistance to Bragg’s agenda has little to do with real world effects. The offense he will no longer pursue — the stand-alone charge of resisting arrest or resisting arrest charged with other, lesser crimes — was prosecuted fewer than 76 times in 2020 under Bragg predecessor, Cyrus Vance. That was a minuscule proportion of the tens of thousands of cases the office handled that year. In the city as a whole, resisting arrest was the top charge fewer than 250 times in 2020. Bragg said that any violence toward police officers will be charged as assault, reports the New York Times.
Resisting arrest charges are filed disproportionately against Blacks, and a small percentage of officers account for many of the cases. Frequently, defense attorneys said, it meant that their clients had been treated violently. Still, Bragg’s policy on the resisting arrest charge caused a backlash from law enforcement authorities and Republican politicians. Police officers and their representatives say that the resisting arrest charge is an important tool for them to maintain control. Bragg’s rule that prosecutors charge robberies as petit larceny, a misdemeanor, unless offenders had created “a genuine risk of physical harm,” has been a subject of fierce debate. The use of the resisting arrest charge has come under scrutiny. Some policing experts consider it to be a strong indication of excessive force, as it can protect officers from legal blowback in cases where they may have abused people in their custody. “When Vance’s office was charging resisting, I knew without a doubt I would walk in the back and see my client beaten up, bloody and bruised,” said Eliza Orlins, a public defender who ran against Bragg.