‘I Was Wrong’: Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk

Written by Dana Sanchez
Until recently, Michael Bloomberg defended the notorious stop-and-frisk policy. Now that he’s potentially running in 2020, he’s apologized for supporting it. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks with members of the media, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke). Police carry a man after he was arrested and hit with pepper spray as officers enforced a 10 p.m. curfew, May 2, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/David Goldman).

Until recently, Michael Bloomberg has defended the notorious stop-and-frisk policy which gave New York City police broad powers to racially profile Black and Latino people and reached its peak during his tenure as mayor.

Now that he’s potentially running in the 2020 presidential race, Bloomberg is apologizing for supporting the policy. His support of stop-and-frisk is seen as one of the most indelible records on race among the candidates. Black voters helped determine the winners of the last two presidential primaries, Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Stop-and-frisk negatively impacted so many Black people across New York that Bloomberg’s support for it is now seen as one of his biggest potential vulnerabilities in 2020, New York Times reported.

On social media, a lot of people aren’t buying Bloomberg’s apology. “Now release everyone convicted as a result of it, expunge their criminal records and offer compensation (from your vast personal wealth) to any/all adversely affected by it. Then… we’ll accept your apology and know you really believe you were wrong. Until then, it’s just words,” one Twitter user said.

The U.S. Supreme Court approved stop-and-frisk in 1968 in the case of Terry v. Ohio, allowing police officers who lacked probable cause for an arrest to search for weapons. They could detain and frisk or pat-down the suspect’s body over his or her clothing.

There were millions of street stops heavily targeting Black and brown young men during Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure. He served three terms as mayor from 2002 to 2013.

Between 2003 and 2013, more than 100,000 stops were made per year. At the height of the program in 2011, 685,724 people were stopped, according to data from the NY Civil Liberties Union. The policy became a lightning rod for criticism of racial profiling.

The policy was reduced during the tenure of the city’s next mayor, Bill de Blasio, who described it as racist, New York Times reported. However, it hasn’t gone away.

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Bloomberg defended the program even after a federal judge ruled in 2013 that it violated the constitutional rights of Black people and people of color.

Bloomberg made the apology at the Christian Cultural Center, a Black megachurch in Brooklyn, one of the communities hit hardest by his policing policies. If he decides to run for president, African-American voters will be a crucial Democratic constituency that he must win over, Shane Goldmacher wrote for NYT.

During the speech, Bloomberg said he’s thinking about his future and coming to terms with his past, and where he came up short. “I was wrong,” Bloomberg told the church congregation. “And I am sorry.”

Bloomberg’s speech was his first since becoming a possible presidential candidate, and “a remarkable concession by a 77-year-old billionaire not known for self-doubt,” Goldmacher wrote. “That a pillar of his 12-year mayoralty was a mistake that he now regrets. It was also, in some ways, a last word on an era of aggressive policing in New York City that began a generation ago under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — though the fallout on neighborhoods is still felt to this day.”

Amira Beatty, who attended the church service in Brooklyn, was not impressed by Bloomberg. “This is about what he wants,” she told NYT. “He didn’t come to C.C.C. because he’s here to promote a C.C.C. initiative. He’s here to promote a Bloomberg initiative.”

On Twitter, one respondent saw Bloomberg’ speech as manipulative. “I wish black churches would shut him down. Forgiveness is being used to manipulate folks,” she wrote. “He was wrong. Knew it. Refused to acknowledge it. Then decided he needed us so to the church he comes. Nope.”