Mike Bloomberg has issued a statement following resurfaced audio of a 2015 speech in which the former New York City mayor defends the city’s racist stop-and-frisk policy.
“I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused,” Bloomberg’s statement reads. “By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized—and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities.”
During a 2015 speech at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, Bloomberg argued that putting cops in black and brown neighborhoods was a proven way to reduce crime.
“It’s controversial, but first thing is, all of your—95 percent of your murders, murderers and murder victims, fit one M.O.,” Bloomberg said. “You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York... That’s true in virtually every city. And that’s where the real crime is.”
“Put those cops where the crime is, which is in the minority neighbourhoods. So this is - one of the unintended consequences is, people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why Because we put all the cops in the minority neighbourhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them.”
This is not an outlier. It’s consistent with what Bloomberg has said publicly throughout his tenure as mayor of New York until fall of 2019, when he presented a similarly weak mea culpa before a congregation of black churchgoers in Brooklyn, conveniently timed for his then-tentative presidential run.
“I got something important really wrong,” Bloomberg said. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives, but as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough.”
His claims of ignorance received a tepid response in the pews.
The full impact that stop-and-frisk had on black and Latino communities were readily provided to Bloomberg’s administration. Stop-and-frisk was a dehumanizing policy of racial profiling that criminalized New Yorkers in their own communities and was inaccurately linked to a reduction in crime, despite the fact that crime was already trending downward. According to data from the New York American Civil Liberties Union, at stop-and-frisk’s height in 2011 under Bloomberg, over 685,000 people were stopped; nine out of 10 were innocent of wrongdoing.
But Bloomberg was a true believer, despite the growing data that showed that this was a faulty practice. In June 2013, as the City Council proposed bills cracking down on the practice, then-Mayor Bloomberg said that people of color should be frisked more, not less
From the New York Post:
“I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they say,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show, in response to the City Council passing two bills aimed at reining in the controversial policing tactic.
“I don’t know where they went to school but they certainly didn’t take a math course. Or a logic course.”
But in August 2013, a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos “who would not have been stopped if they were white.” In a 195-page decision, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin noted that the NYPD had a complete disregard for the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures) and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Bloomberg was livid following Scheindlin’s decision and vowed to appeal the decision. (The appeal was dropped under the DeBlasio administration the following year).
He has harbored the belief that stop-and-frisk was an effective policy: In a cavalier tone at the 2015 at the Aspen Institute, and with more respectable sensibilities in 2018 interview in which he maintained that stop-and-frisk didn’t violate anyone’s civil rights.
From the New York Times:
He dismissed a court ruling to the contrary as the opinion of a single judge that could have been overturned on appeal. Mr. Bloomberg suggested many Democrats would agree with him on policing.
“I think people, the voters, want low crime,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “They don’t want kids to kill each other.”
But now he’s sorry, because to be the Democratic nominee for president, he has to pretend to care about the black and Latino voters he would otherwise gladly have thrown against the wall. A new Quinnipiac poll indicated that 22 percent of black voters nationwide support Bloomberg, putting him just behind Biden who has 27 percent of the share has is falling, rapidly. But this was before Bloomberg was forced to debut his apology tour nationwide, and I guess we’ll find if voters are ready and willing to trade out one racist for a more respectable one.