In a remarkable change of position, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for the “stop and frisk” program that he championed for years.
Bloomberg, who is considering a run for president as a Democrat, has long defended the program, even after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional in 2013. The program was seen as Bloomberg’s signature policy as mayor and Bloomberg often credited it for New York’s historic reduction in crime. Now, though, the program is widely viewed as a discriminatory violation of rights, as it disproportionately targeted black and Latino New Yorkers.
Bloomberg’s reversal came during a speech at the Christian Cultural Center — his first public appearance since meeting an early filing deadline in Alabama to get his name on the ballot. “I was wrong,” Bloomberg said. “And I am sorry.”
The Christian Cultural Center is a black megachurch in Brooklyn, New York, and was an apparent nod to the community most hurt by the longtime policing policy. His pronouncement received mostly negative responses, with observers on the left questioning the sincerity of his sudden change of heart.
Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a “death bed conversion” and added that Bloomberg has had six years — since it was ruled unconstitutional — to say it was wrong.
Vox’s Matthew Yglesias summed up his view on Bloomberg’s flip-flop with a tweet that read, “I did a racism when cops & Republicans were an important part of my political base but now that I’m running in a Democratic primary I’d like black votes.”
Harry Siegel, an opinion writer for The Daily Beast, noted that Bloomberg had “his whole third term, and six years since, to come to an honest reckoning.” Coming clean before a presidential run “doesn’t amount to a damn thing,” Siegel added.
“I did a racism when cops & Republicans were an important part of my political base but now that I’m running in a Democratic primary I’d like black votes.”https://t.co/t9jWxrudkG— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 17, 2019
Others have noted that as recently as 2018, Bloomberg was still defending the program to reporters. He also mocked the notion of going on an “apology tour” leading up to his presidential run, though few things would qualify more than reversing course on the signature issue of his term as mayor.
Throughout the stop and frisk program, the disparities were clear to opponents. In 2009, there were 575,000 stops. Of those, black and Latino people were nine times more likely to be stopped than white people, despite the fact they were no more likely to be arrested after being stopped. Data about those stops was available as early as 2010, but Bloomberg always maintained the program was good for New York.
A thread on @mikebloomberg & #stopandfrisk:— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) November 17, 2019
When I was a med student in NYC, I was stopped/frisked. I was a young, brown man in a hoodie in Washington Heights.
In 2012, he spoke at the @PDSoros conference. I took the Q/A opportunity to bring it up.
Last week, Bloomberg was drawing attention for a different apology. Responding to a story in The New York Times on the distasteful comments he has made about women. A Bloomberg representative said the former mayor has “come to see what he said is disrespectful and wrong.”
Even without the apologies, Bloomberg faces an uphill battle in the Democratic primary, where he’s polling at just 3 percent. The former mayor remains committed to defeating Donald Trump in 2020, though, and recently announced he will spend more than $100 million on an anti-Trump digital ad blitz.