Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For 'Stop And Frisk' Police Policy: 'I Was Wrong'

WCBS 880 Newsroom
November 17, 2019 - 12:54 pm
Michael Bloomberg

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UPDATED 10:55AM on 11/18/2019

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reversing his longstanding support of the controversial “stop and frisk” police strategy ahead of a potential Democratic presidential run.

Addressing a black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said of the practice that often led to the disproportionate detaining of blacks and Latinos that he “can’t change history” but he now realizes “I was wrong.” 

Bloomberg said if anyone was wrongly stopped by police, “I apologize.”

Watch Bloomberg's remarks at the Christian Cultural Center here:

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.

Bloomberg told the congregation Sunday that he wants to earn back the trust of black and Latino communities.

Reactions began pouring in shortly after Bloomberg made the apology, with many people saying it wasn't enough.

Calling Bloomberg a "colonizer, activist Shaun King said, "This January, you gave a full-throated, clear-eyed, all-in defense of stop and frisk."

"Now you know you need Black votes and you have a change of heart," King added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also chimed in, slamming the apology's timing and the legacy of the policy.

De Blasio is questioning the timing of Bloomberg's apology.

"People aren't stupid, like, they can figure out whether someone is honestly addressing an issue or whether they are acting out of convenience. For years so many of us said, when he was mayor of New York City, this is hurting people," he said on CNN. "I'm always glad when someone has the ability to apologize, I am contesting why now and why under this circumstance, but the much bigger point here is stop and frisk was discredited years and years ago."

The city's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, also released a statement reacting to Bloomberg's apology.

“We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities,” the statement reads. “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.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Bloomberg's apology is a step towards justice.

"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," Adams tweeted, adding that his apology "moves in that direction."

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called it an "11th hour apology."

Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement, saying, "I am glad to see Mr. Bloomberg now admit that the policy was wrong."

"He called me after his speech and I communicated to him that it will take more than one speech for people to forgive and forget a policy that so negatively impacted entire communities. However, 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 his position is being taken by someone so identified with the policy," Sharpton said.

On Monday morning, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a long time opponent of stop-and-frisk, spoke about the apology, saying, "The result of the out-of-control stop-question-and-frisk program in New York City, hundreds of thousands of young, black and Latino young men and women were unnecessarily traumatized and criminalized during the previous administration.

Jeffries adds that Bloomberg’s apology, as the congressman put it, is “welcomed, it appears authentic and it seems to have come from his heart.”

Still, he says communities don't simply want to hear an individual talk the talk, “it's important for all of us to walk the walk.”

Jeffries suggested that Bloomberg philanthropies could help the formerly incarcerated transition back to society.