Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s apology for his handling of stop-and-frisk has drawn fire from New York City’s powerful police union, which charged that his words were “too little, too late,” and accused him of inspiring an “anti-police movement.”
Bloomberg issued the apology Sunday, in advance of joining the Democratic presidential race, but the immediate reaction from New York’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA) suggested trouble ahead.
Bloomberg expressed regrets at a predominantly black megachurch, saying he didn’t understand the full effects on African-American and Latino communities quickly enough, reports the Washington Post.
“I’m sorry that we didn’t,” Bloomberg said. “But I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then, I was wrong.”
The reaction was almost instantaneous from PBA head Patrick Lynch.
“Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street,” said Lynch, reported the New York Post.
“We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities.
“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.”
Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio was equally scathing.
“This is LONG overdue and the timing is transparent and cynical,” tweeted de Blasio. “With all due respect to my predecessor, we’ve spent six years undoing the damage he created with this bankrupt policy. We ended stop and frisk AND drove down crime.
Noted stop-and-frisk critic Rev. Al Sharpton — who revealed that Bloomberg called him shortly after making his mea culpa — offered the same skepticism, though mixed with slightly more optimism.
“He called me and said he apologized for stop-and-frisk,” said Sharpton. “I don’t know the motivation, but it’s the right step.
“But it’s going to take more than one speech to earn people’s confidence and forgiveness,” added Sharpton. “We’ll see over time whether this was politically motivated.”
Bloomberg has filed to run in Alabama and Arkansas and has a strategy that would largely bypass four early nominating states and focus on contests that include Southern states with large black populations.
Bloomberg’s attempt to confront a big potential liability reflects a Democratic shift on issues of race, criminal justice and police violence. Voters are demanding their leaders take firmer stances against discrimination by law enforcement and reject tough-on-crime policies.
On Sunday, Bloomberg said, “I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong.”
He spoke at the Christian Cultural Center, where he had visited 17 times.
“Many people will see it as mixed,” said NAACP chief executive Derrick Johnson of Bloomberg’s record. Stop-and-frisk was “extremely problematic,” Johnson said, but he noted that Bloomberg is a gun-control supporter.
Lynch said that officers had warned “that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities.”
Stop-and-frisk refers to police stopping, questioning and searching people they suspect may have committed crimes or are about to do so. A federal judge ruled stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and said New York had engaged in indirect racial profiling.