Michael Bloomberg’s policing policy while mayor of New York became a focus at the presidential debate Wednesday, as the billionaire candidate was attacked by his rivals for “stop and frisk,” which enabled the New York Police Department to stop and search thousands of residents of color in the city without traditional standards of probable cause.
“Bloomberg’s rising presidential campaign got stopped and frisked on Wednesday night by the rest of the Democratic debate field, which piled on the former New York City mayor as he offered contrition for the contentious policing policy,”according to NBC News.
The former mayor offered an apology, saying, “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. 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 started it. We adopted a policy which had been in place. The policy that all big police departments use of stop-and-frisk. What happened, however, was it got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it out.”
The Washington Post, however, reported in its Fact Check of the debate, “Bloomberg’s claim that he cut 95 percent of stop-and-frisk incidents, which disproportionately targeted black and Hispanic men in New York while he was mayor, relies on a selective parsing of the data.”
He inherited the stop-and-frisk policy from his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, but it “was the Bloomberg administration that ramped up the practice by New York police,” said The Washington Post. In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, stop-and-frisk incidents reportedly increased nearly 600 percent, reaching a high point of about 686,000 actions in 2011.
The apology did not appear to satisfy the other presidential candidates, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren saying, “This isn’t about how it turned out. This is about what it was designed to do to begin with. It targeted black and brown men. … You need a different apology here.”
Vice President Joe Biden said, “It’s not whether he apologized or not. It’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent,” calling it a “violation of every right people have.”
But Bloomberg defended himself, noting that attitudes have recently changed on criminal justice and that almost every candidate on stage has mixed record on issues of race and policing.
“If we took off everybody that was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at sometime in their careers, there’d be nobody else up here,” Bloomberg said