Tsk, tsk, New York’s finest.
Just a week after weathering racist attacks on his criminal justice policies in a gubernatorial race that had nothing to do with him, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. announced on Friday that he is asking a judge to dismiss almost 200 convictions that were based on eight former New York cops whose work was found to no longer be credible. The judge obliged, wiping 188 convictions from the books, although those whose lives were disrupted can’t as easily get a clean slate.
The eight cops involved are among a slate of NYPD officers who have already been convicted of crimes including official misconduct, unlawful searches, perjuring themselves on the stand and even drug dealing. Those convictions led to defense attorneys to send letters to the five New York borough prosecutors asking for reviews in crimes where people had been convicted based on testimony or evidence gathered by those same officers. In Manhattan alone, there are more than 1,100 such cases, the New York Times reports.
Even still, the NYPD has “zero tolerance...for corruption or criminal activity of any kind by any member of the service,” department commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement. Facts may not bear that out. In addition to the reviews and vacated convictions in Manhattan, the Times reported that 378 have been tossed in Brooklyn, 250 in the Bronx and 60 in Queens. All of those numbers sound like a lot more than zero.
In his first term as Manhattan’s first-ever Black district attorney, Bragg has walked a tightrope, trying to balance fighting a rise in violent crime in some parts of New York’s densest borough and more progressive policies like avoiding charges for possession of weed and prioritizing mental health treatment for some accused of crimes.
But that approach means he’s also been targeted by other politicians running with a tough-on-crime message. In an exclusive interview earlier this week, Bragg told The Root that Republican Lee Zeldin’s campaign ads attacking him during Zeldin’s run for governor were part of an “anti-democratic, race-baiting campaign,” that nonetheless failed.