Manhattan Democratic voters face an extremely important election when they vote next month. No individual has a greater direct impact on police work and mass incarceration in everyday life than a district attorney. The public prosecutor decides who will be prosecuted and who will not. They have a great deal of discretion to either increase or reform racial differences within our criminal justice system. And no prosecutor plays a more important role in shaping the national criminal justice conversation than the Manhattan District Attorney.
In Manhattan, one of the largest DA offices in the country, we have allowed the kings to run the office. Manhattan had only three prosecutors in the past 80 years, and the last two were the sons of cabinet secretaries. One of the leading candidates today represents a different type of royalty: Wall Street. Tali Farhadian Weinstein is the big cash contender who has raised over $ 4 million, most of it from the world’s richest people, multimillionaires who work in their Park Avenue social circles like Ken Griffin, and big money donors from Goldman Sachs , Pershing Square Capital and the hedge fund managed by her husband Boaz Weinstein. She is committed to using the same techniques that lead to mass incarceration and police abuse (including a widely discredited gang database).
We have never had a district attorney from affected communities who understands what it feels like to be racially profiled, who has friends and family members who have been charged by the system, who understands on a visceral level the racial inequalities that are burned into the system . and the immeasurable human cost of mass imprisonment.
Alvin Bragg would be that prosecutor. Born and raised in Harlem, Bragg was stopped and searched three times at gunpoint by the NYPD because of his skin color. He has witnessed the trauma that the system inflicts on those affected and helped his own brother-in-law to rebuild his life after some time in prison. And he never left the community that raised him; He trains the Harlem Little League and teaches Sunday School at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Every week he is in direct contact with the children who are released from the criminal justice system and disregarded. A year after George Floyd was murdered, he would be Black Manhattan’s first district attorney: a rarity in an area where 95 percent of prosecutors are white.
His legal skills are impressive. Trained at Harvard in the New York Attorney General’s office, he oversaw some of the office’s biggest cases – from launching the Trump Foundation investigation to tackling tenant harassment. As an assistant US attorney in New York’s South District, he prosecuted corrupt politicians and an FBI agent for lying. He was a major advocate of getting rid of a bad law covering up police wrongdoing in New York (50a) and ending Stop and Frisk. And where the rubber hits the streets, where he had to stand up against his own colleagues to prosecute prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, he did it and brought a major anti-corruption case against a backcountry prosecutor who doesn’t endear you to other prosecutors, but a demonstration of leadership that has resulted in deep respect for the reformers.