Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Apologizes for Stop-and-Frisk Policies
Michael Bloomberg apologized on Sunday for his persistent support of stop-and-frisk practices that disproportionately target people of color. Bloomberg’s apology comes after he filed paperwork for the Democratic presidential primaries in Alabama and Arkansas, keeping his options open for a presidential run.
In his speech on Sunday, Bloomberg claimed that stop-and-frisk was intended to counter gun violence, and that he had been unaware of the targeting of communities of color. He emphasized that by the time he left office he had cut stops by 94%, and pointed to other policies he had supported with the aim of helping at-risk black and Latino youth.
“I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand that back then, the full impact that stops were having on black and Latino communities,” said Bloomberg. “I now see that we could and should have acted sooner, and acted faster to cut stops. I wish we had, and I’m sorry that we didn’t.”
Stop-and-frisk hit its peak in 2011, when the NYPD reported about 700,000 stops. Eighty-seven percent of those stopped were black or Latino, though the population of New York City was only 50% black and Latino. Under the de Blasio administration, stops have plummeted to around 10,000 per year, and the crime rate has continued to fall.
Bloomberg had stubbornly supported stop-and-frisk practices as recently as January of this year, defending his decision to rely on stop-and-frisk even after a 2013 ruling found that the policy had violated the civil rights of minorities through its racial profiling and targeting of black and Latino men.
Shira Scheindlin, the federal judge who ruled on the case, wrote in her conclusion that the city’s highest officials had “turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
At the time, Bloomberg called the rule a “dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works,” and complained that New York city had not been given “a fair trial.”
Six years after leaving office, Bloomberg has finally admitted to having made a mistake. But his apology struck many as too little, too late.
“Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, in a statement. “We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities. His administration’s misguided policy inspired an anti-police movement that has made cops the target of hatred and violence, and stripped away many of the tools we had used to keep New Yorkers safe.”
Others saw the late apology as insincere, and an unapologetic attempt to win over black and Latino voters in the primaries who might have been put off by his continued defense of stop-and-frisk.
“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers knew stop-and-frisk was a broken policy and spoke out against it,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Michael Bloomberg wouldn’t listen.”
WHAT THE LEFT IS SAYING: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: “An apology can never erase the humiliation and trauma that hundreds of thousands endured from abuses of #stopandfrisk. What it can do is provide a spark for greater healing along the long arc of history bending toward justice. Michael Bloomberg’s apology moves in that direction.”
An apology can never erase the humiliation and trauma that hundreds of thousands endured from abuses of #stopandfrisk. What it can do is provide a spark for greater healing along the long arc of history bending toward justice. @MikeBloomberg’s apology moves in that direction.
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) November 17, 2019
WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING: NYC Councilmember Eric Ulrich: “I too have regrets about my unequivocal support for stop & frisk in 2013. I have admitted to Jumaane Williams and Mayor Bill de Blasio on more than one occasion that they were right and I was wrong. Michael Bloomberg issued a powerful apology today and I would like to do the same. I’m sorry.”
I too have regrets about my unequivocal support for stop & frisk in 2013. I have admitted to @JumaaneWilliams and @NYCMayor on more than one occasion that they were right and I was wrong. @MikeBloomberg issued a powerful apology today and I would like to do the same. I’m sorry.
— Eric Ulrich (@eric_ulrich) November 17, 2019