Alvin Bragg’s reason for running for Manhattan DA is clear: It makes sense with his career choices, and it is fundamentally about righting wrongs within his community. Bragg is a prosecutor; he buys into the criminal punishment system and believes that prosecution is necessary to right wrongs. Nevertheless, he will dramatically change criminal court and decline to prosecute many “broken windows” and Quality of Life offenses. A native and life-long resident of Harlem and the son of a homeless shelter director, he understands that the criminal punishment system is not the place to address economic problems like homelessness. As the only Black man in this race and a lifelong resident of Harlem, Bragg weaves his personal experiences into every aspect of his policy propositions and his ideas for fundamental change within the Manhattan DA’s office.
Bragg would not be entering the office as an advocate of the status quo. He will not hesitate to fire current assistants and deputies. He wants to usher in a new era of accountability and transparency and would do this by compiling and publicly releasing data on racial disparities and other prosecutorial issues. As Bragg states, “When you’re operating in an environment when you’re dealing with people’s liberty, there’s not a margin for, ‘oh, I got that wrong.’ There are other jobs where you can go do that. You won’t be able to do that in my office.”
Bragg has also pledged to change the friendly, close relationship between the DA’s office and the NYPD. He is proud to be the only candidate who has successfully prosecuted a law enforcement officer, and he is currently representing Eric Garner’s family in their suit against the City. Bragg has direct experience with NYPD violence, as he has been racially profiled himself. He would use his personal and professional experiences to get “buy in” from his assistants.
While Bragg is keenly aware of problems within the criminal punishment system, his solutions do not lessen the DA’s stranglehold on marginalized communities. Similar to the other former and current prosecutors in the race, Bragg would maintain much of the discretion and power that the DA’s office currently holds. While he would not categorically put an end to many of the office’s unjust practices, he would seek to make these practices the exception rather than the norm.
Bragg has the most progressive agenda of all the career prosecutors in this race, yet he is saddled by the time he spent under the leadership of Preet Bharara at the US Attorney’s Office, where he played a role in perpetuating racist and oppressive law enforcement practices against young people of color, including undocumented immigrants. When asked about prosecuting illegal reentry cases, Bragg said, “I think [they] are bad cases, I did it because I was in the office, but I think we all have to be accountable for our conduct, and when I think about those cases, I wish I could have done that job without doing them.” Bragg freely acknowledged that, like the other former prosecutors in the race, he “came up through the ranks that fuel mass incarceration.”
Bragg comes off as deeply thoughtful, personable, genuine, and eager to understand the reasoning behind some of the questions and commitments that we posed. This suggests that while he is a former prosecutor who is not committed to shrinking the power of the DA, he is open to input and change and would reduce the harm currently done to Black and brown communities.