Michael Bloomberg was at pains Wednesday to explain his use of a stop-and-frisk policy that disproportionately affected minorities in New York City in an effort to lower crime rates when he was mayor of America’s biggest city.
“If I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I’m really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk,” Bloomberg responded when asked about the controversial policy that has since been abandoned.
“When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City, and I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live, that’s the basic right of everything. And we adopted a policy which had been in place, the policy that all big police departments use, stop-and-frisk. What happened, however, was it got out of control. When we discovered, I discovered that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it out and I’ve sat down with a bunch of African-Americans clergy and businesspeople to talk about this, to try to learn. I’ve talked to a number of kids who’d been stopped.”
Bloomberg’s rivals at the debate jumped at the chance to take him on over the issue, with Joe Biden getting the first shot.
“Look, let’s get something straight,” Biden said. “The reason the stop-and-frisk changed was because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea we sent them there.”
Biden added: “It’s not whether he apologized or not, it’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent.”
Bloomberg, who at this point in the debate had already been the target of withering attacks by the other candidates, responded by noting his remorse for the policy that, until rather recently, he had defended.
“I’ve sat, I’ve apologized, I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people, but the policy, we stopped too many people and we’ve got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country,” Bloomberg said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren then lowered the boom, calling into question the sincerity of Bloomberg’s apology.
“This isn’t about how it turned out. This is about what it was designed to do to begin with. It targeted communities of color. It targeted black and brown men from the beginning,” Warren said. “And if you want to issue a real apology, [it] has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together.”
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