“This is gonna make us safer. It’s intuitive, it’s common sense. I don’t understand the pushback,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.
There has been plenty of pushback for Bragg during his very first week in office.
Critics pounced on the new policy and procedure memo issued Monday, outlining which crimes would be downgraded or no longer prosecuted, like fare evasion.
“We were specific. We said we were going to marry fairness and safety, and we laid out a specific plan. We put on the website, we put it in print,” Bragg said.
“I called the Manhattan DA myself and asked if he can come and speak this morning to the community so people can be clear on what he’s saying and what he’s not saying,” said Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network.
Bragg was at the National Action Network in Harlem on Saturday morning to clarify his strategy to decriminalize poverty and the mental health issues driving many non-violent offenses. It’s a plan he says is being misunderstood.
“It’s not about letting the criminals out. It’s about making room, so you got room in the court and the jails for the real criminals to be in,” Sharpton said.
Still, new Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell addressed Bragg’s reform in an email to the NYPD saying, “I am very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers.”
Those concerns were echoed in statements from both the Police Benevolent Association and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Bragg, who is appearing on Up Close on Sunday, says he is sticking to his plan.
“If you, you know, are doing something driven by addiction or mental health issue, a low-level crime you’re going directly to services, in large part so we can focus on those more serious things which are affecting safety in Manhattan,” Bragg said.
Bragg also says he looks forward to a frank productive dialogue about his reform with the NYPD, which is best done one-one one and outside of the media.