Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg clarifies major policy announcement during Zimroth Center event

In remarks hosted by NYU Law’s Peter L. Zimroth Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, Alvin Bragg, the newly elected district attorney of Manhattan, discussed a memo that stirred controversy after it was released on his third day in office. Bragg offered clarifications of what he called an “unclear and legalistic” document that instructed prosecutors in his office to seek jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses unless otherwise mandated by law. The memo had prompted reservations from law enforcement, including an email to all New York City Police Department officers from Keechant Sewell, the new police commissioner, expressing concerns about the policy.

After concluding his roughly 10-minute remarks, Bragg engaged for the better part of an hour in a discussion moderated by Vice Dean and Charles Seligson Professor of Law Rachel Barkow, faculty director of the Zimroth Center. Barkow posed questions submitted by audience members of the virtual event; additional questions came from participants Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League, and Jessica Orozco, chief of staff at the Hispanic Federation. 

While much of the discussion focused on the reactions to and potential implications of Bragg’s proposed policies, a broad range of other topics surfaced, including the reluctance of many New Yorkers to abandon the “broken windows” approach to policing, gun trafficking, hate crimes, ensuring adequate resources for incarceration alternatives, and racial disparities in criminal justice.

Watch the video of the discussion:

Selected remarks by Alvin Bragg:

“Throughout my career as a prosecutor, I’ve always been mindful that I sit behind a desk or I go into a courtroom, while my partners in law enforcement at the NYPD go out into the street into harm’s way. We will not tolerate violence against the NYPD or others in law enforcement.” (video 05:37)

“Before I was 21, I had a knife to my throat, a semiautomatic weapon to my head, a homicide victim on my doorstep. That trauma that comes with that, that’s what I want to address. I do not want any other New Yorker to experience that. Public safety will be paramount and will always have primacy in my office. We can and will have this safety alongside the fairness that we deserve and also need in our system. Those two concepts, safety and fairness, are not oppositional. They are inextricably linked. We cannot truly have one without the other.” (video 06:08)

“I want to maximize our use of restorative justice based upon victim and survivor input. It’s always got to be driven from that perspective, and we want to offer victims and survivors a full range of options, not just a binary set of options….. The restorative justice process allows us to address the primary victim but also to have us come together and discuss the secondary victims…. My office will always be motivated and driven by what’s in the interest of public safety and the voices of victims.” (video 14:36)

Posted February 7, 2022