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Policy Dispute Emerges Between NYC's New Police Chief, Prosecutor

Keechant Sewell, New York City’s new police commissioner, has expressed severe dissatisfaction with the policies of new Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, sending an email to all officers that suggests a potential rupture between City Hall and the prosecutor over their approaches to public safety, reports the New York Times. Sewell said she was deeply troubled by policies outlined by Bragg in a memo that Bragg sent to his staff. The memo told prosecutors to avoid seeking jail or prison time for all but the most serious crimes, and to stop charging a number of lower-level crimes. Sewell said in an email to 36,000 members of the department that she had studied the policies and come away “very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims.”

The email suggests a looming conflict between the new district attorney and the commissioner’s boss, Mayor Eric Adams. The collision course between the mayor and the district attorney was hinted at during the Democratic primary in the spring of 2021. Adams made a crackdown on crime one of the main themes of his campaign; Bragg, following in the path carved by a handful of prosecutors around the nation, pledged to help reshape the legal system, to avoid disproportionate punishment for first-time offenders or those struggling with mental health issues or poverty. A Bragg spokesman said, “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.” The emerging tensions between Sewell and Bragg reflect a broader political argument between centrist Democrats looking to soothe voters worried about crime and a movement of progressive prosecutors that has pushed for more lenient policies to make the justice system more fair and less biased.


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