NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After defending the NYPD’s former stop-and-frisk policy for years, former mayor Michael Bloomberg is now apologizing for the controversial program.

He previously said the policy took guns off the streets and made the city safer. Now, he’s walking back those beliefs.

“I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong and I’m sorry,” Bloomberg told the predominantly black congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in East New York, Brooklyn.

Sunday’s bombshell admission came as the former mayor and billionaire considers a presidential run.

“That’s politics. He’s running for president so he needs that community that he stopped-and-frisked all this time,” one woman told CBS2.

“He’s not sincere. He wants to do it because he wants to be running for president,” Brooklyn resident Aisha Duckett said.

“He should’ve made this apology a long time ago,” said Queens resident Christopher Klein.

Web Extra: Michael Bloomberg Addresses Christian Cultural Center 

Mayor Bill de Blasio stood with those skeptical New Yorkers, expressing his doubts about Bloomberg’s sincerity.

“People aren’t stupid. They can figure out whether someone is honestly addressing an issue or whether they’re acting out of convenience,” he said. “There were many points where he could have acknowledged this. It seems awfully strange that it took until now.”

Stop-and-frisk gave NYPD officers the authority to stop anyone they suspected of a crime, leading to a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos being stopped, according to statistics from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“I didn’t understand that back then – the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities,” said Bloomberg.

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An NYCLU report shows more than 2.5 million people were stopped and frisked while Bloomberg was mayor between 2003 and 2013. Weapons were found in only 2% of those stops.

During that same period, murders and shootings declined modestly.

Breaking Down Bloomberg’s Bombshell Apology

Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Capt. Eric Adams met with Bloomberg on Sunday.

“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 acknowledgement?”

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“I told him, when he called me after the speech, that it’s going to take more than one speech to get forgiveness,” Rev. Al Sharpton added. “I thought it was important for the national drive against stop-and-frisk, because other cities have duplicated stop-and-frisk following the New York model.”

However, the police union tweeted a statement blasting the administration, with PBA President Pat Lynch saying the “misguided policy inspired an anti-police movement that has made cops the target of hatred and violence,” adding,” the apology is too little too late.”

Bloomberg said conversations he had during his third term with innocent people affected by the policy influenced his decision to make changes.

Stops were reduced 94% by the time he left office, and the crime rate did not go back up.

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