New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered a message Tuesday to those calling for the ouster of newly elected Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Give him some time.
“Someone who has been on the job a very short time, people like me – I cut him some slack,” Hochul said at a COVID briefing in the Bronx. “He’s only been on the job a quarter of the time I have, and I have been on the job a very short time.”
Hochul’s comments came as Bragg, who took office Jan. 1, continues to face criticism from Republicans and tough-on-crime Democrats for a controversial Jan. 3 memo that directed his office to stop prosecuting certain low-level offenses and only seek pretrial detention in “very serious cases."
Bragg and Hochul, both Democrats, met in the governor’s Manhattan office on Friday as Hochul faced calls from her political opponents, including Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, to take action.
Under state law, Hochul has the extraordinary power to remove certain officials from office – including district attorneys – or appoint a special prosecutor. While the removal power is often threatened, it is rarely used, having not been triggered since the days of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In her first public comments about the meeting, Hochul sounded a supportive tone. She said they discussed the need to prosecute crimes related to guns, as well as the need to make people feel safe on the subway system.
“An individual that has been on the job for literally weeks will have an opportunity to show the commitment to dealing with all levels of crimes, something that he was very much aware was important,” Hochul said.
She added: “It was a very productive conversation, and certainly he needs to do his job and he’s doing it right now.”
Bragg issued the policy memo in his first week in office, saying it was necessary to ensure “safety and fairness.” But he admitted later the rollout, which was done without any public remarks or questions from reporters, allowed his message to be misconstrued.
Among the crimes Bragg said his office will stop prosecuting were theft of services, routine traffic violations, resisting arrest and prostitution.
“Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer,” Bragg wrote in the memo.
But the memo spurred an immediate backlash that almost immediately found its way into the governor’s race, with Suozzi quickly producing a television ad faulting Bragg for the policy and trying to tie Hochul to it.
Suozzi is challenging Hochul in a Democratic primary this year.
“If any DA refuses to enforce the law, I will remove them,” Suozzi says in the ad. “Governor Hochul refuses to act. I will.”
On Tuesday, Hochul said Bragg, who also met this week with other city DA’s and Mayor Eric Adams, should be given time to prove he’s up to the job.
“Let him work with the other district attorneys, let him work with NYPD and the mayor to identify areas that they need to have prosecutions, and work together,” she said. “Let the process play out so he can do what he needs to do, which is help establish that sense of security that New Yorkers are looking for – and that involves gun prosecutions.”