NEW YORK (AP/CBSNewYork) — Michael Bloomberg on Sunday reversed his longstanding support of the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy ahead of a potential Democratic presidential run, a policy he embraced as New York’s mayor even though it disproportionately impacted people of color.
Addressing a black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said the practice often led to the disproportionate detaining of blacks and Latinos. He added that he “can’t change history” but now realizes “I was wrong.”
If anyone was wrongly stopped by police, “I apologize,” he said.
Bloomberg’s reversal is a notable recognition of the power and importance of black voters in the Democratic Party and the fact that his record on stop-and-frisk could be one of his biggest vulnerabilities should he launch a White House run.
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The stop-and-frisk practice gave police wide authority to detain people they suspected of committing a crime. Bloomberg aggressively pursued the tactic when he first took over as mayor in 2002.
Mark Peters is the former commissioner for the city’s Department of Investigation, and an expert in urban affairs. He told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez, “Stop and frisk under Mayor Bloomberg was a huge policing disaster,” adding, “To begin with it was unnecessary. All the data we have and have had for a long time demonstrated that it was absolutely unnecessary and didn’t help reduce crime.”
Under the program, New York City police officers made it a routine practice to stop and search multitudes of mostly black and Hispanic men to see if they were carrying weapons.
Web Extra: Michael Bloomberg Addresses Congregation At Christian Cultural Center In Brooklyn:
Police claimed that people were only targeted if officers had a reasonable suspicion that they were breaking the law.
But while the searches did lead to weapons being confiscated, the overwhelming majority of people who were detained and frisked were let go because they hadn’t done anything wrong.
Many men found the encounters humiliating and degrading, and statistics showed that minorities were far more likely to be subjected to such a search.
“Over time I’ve come to understand something that I’ve long struggled to admit to myself. I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. 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,” Bloomberg said Sunday.
Bloomberg told the congregation that he wants to earn back the trust of black and Latino communities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio made ending stop-and-frisk a centerpiece of his first run for office.
The mayor reacted to the apology on Twitter, calling the timing “transparent and cynical.”
“With all due respect to my predecessor, we’ve spent six years undoing the damage he created with this bankrupt policy. We ended stop and frisk AND drove down crime. Actions speak louder than words,” de Blasio said.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch was also critical of the apology, releasing the following statement: “Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street. 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. The apology is too little, too late.”
Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement that Bloomberg called him after Sunday’s speech. Sharpton said he told Bloomberg, “It will take more than one speech for people to forgive and forget a policy that so negatively impacted entire communities,” but he was glad to see him admit the policy was wrong.
“I’m glad to see his position vocalized at a time when President Trump is calling for stop-and-frisk nationally and I’m glad this position is being taken by someone so identified with the policy. We will have to wait and see whether it was politically motivated but Mr. Bloomberg should be judged by the same standards we judged Joe Biden, the author of the 1994 Crime Bill that led to disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown men going to jail for years, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted for it,” Sharpton said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer, met with Bloomberg on Sunday.
“I believe Michael sincerely feels as though they made a grave mistake years ago in their implementation of stop and frisk, I accept his apology,” Adams said. “I believe that the question now becomes, how do we move forward? What do we do now after that acknowledgment?”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)