Lee Heidhues 1.21.2022
No sooner does a “progressive” District Attorney assume office than the political knives are unsheathed. It is becoming such a regular occurence in America that the reactionary forces of law and order and the politicians who support them will never acknowledge the old tough on crime lock ’em up school doesn’t work.
The list of “progressive” DAs under siege is disturbing. Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, George Gascon in Los Angeles and Alvin Bragg in Manhattan are just four DAs who have come under vicious attack since the moment they assumed office.
The voters either fail to see through or choose to believe this toxic fog of law and order rhetoric.
It’s not the District Attorneys who need to be called to account. It is the entire American system which keeps marginalized people in poverty. It is the lack of oppportunity for many Americans. It is the glorification of violence through the media. It is the American system which makes guns available to virtually every citizen.
It’s a systemic American problem which has corroded the entire social fabric of this country.
Excerpted from New York – Intelligencer 1.21.2022
Alvin Bragg, the newly elected Manhattan district attorney, is being attacked on an almost daily basis for doing exactly what he promised voters: moving away from using arrest, prosecution, and jail (or the threat of it) as the primary, default strategy for dealing with low-level crimes and disorder.
It’s a painful but necessary dispute. If Bragg doesn’t buckle, and if the current surge in street crime recedes, New York could move closer to the holy grail of becoming safer and more fair at the same time.
The general idea, championed by Bragg and a number of so-called “progressive prosecutors” around the country, is to clear the docket of court-clogging lower-level offenses, thereby freeing up police and prosecutors to focus on serious problems like gang activity, gun trafficking, and domestic violence.
Bragg also promised to make minor but important changes to how certain crimes were charged. Resisting arrest, he promised, would have to be tied to an actual arrest, not prosecuted as a stand-alone offense. (Think about it: If a person isn’t being arrested, why prosecute them for resisting that non-arrest?)
More controversially, Bragg believes that not all crimes involving a gun should be treated the same. That stance stems from a case, which Bragg frequently mentioned on the campaign trail, involving his brother-in-law, who as a college student got into a fistfight. “No weapons were drawn. Unlike the policing of white students in these instances, he and all of his friends involved in the fistfight were arrested,” Bragg recounted on his campaign website. “Upon arrest, it was discovered that one of the boys had a gun, and ALL of the boys were charged with possessing the gun.”
Bragg’s arguments and his calm, earnest demeanor — along with the solid turnout of voters in his native Harlem — carried him to victory in the primary and general elections. And shortly after being sworn in, he issued the promised memo.
At which point all hell broke loose.
The New York Post dedicated no fewer than five cover stories to screaming headlines and scathing editorials. “You’ve ordered your prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences for nearly all crimes, and to charge many felonies as mere misdemeanors. That’s giving criminals the green light, plain and simple,” the tabloid’s editorial board wrote.