At the same time, such disputes are not uncommon. There is an ingrained tension between police and prosecutors that often centers on what charges to bring and, sometimes, whether there is sufficient evidence to make an arrest. For the police, to some extent, the job ends with handcuffs, while prosecutors are left with the task of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt or finding some other resolution. But those arguments are rarely made public at all, much less so early in a new administration.
Adams has been complimentary of Bragg when asked about him in recent interviews, calling him a “great prosecutor” and refusing to criticize the memo. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A police spokesman said the memo “speaks for itself.”
Bragg and Adams, both Democrats, have strong law enforcement records and both have promised some measure of reform. Bragg, a former federal prosecutor, excelled in a competitive primary and vowed to balance safety with justice. Adams, a former police captain, has spoken out against police brutality and, while on duty, pushed for changes within the department.
Mr. Bragg is the first black person to lead the district attorney’s office, Mr. Adams is the second black mayor in the city’s history, and Commissioner Sewell is the first woman and third black person to lead the Police department.
In his memo, Mr. Bragg instructed his prosecutors to ask judges for jail or prison time only for those who had committed serious crimes, including murder, sexual assault, and major financial crimes, unless otherwise required by law. Others, he has said, would turn to programs better equipped to address the problems that led them to commit the crimes.
The new district attorney also ordered his prosecutors not to charge a number of misdemeanors. Many of the crimes on his list were no longer being prosecuted by his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. But Mr. Bragg directed his staff to avoid charging several misdemeanors that had already been charged, including resisting the arrest.