Nov. 18 (UPI) — Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for the New York Police Department’s use of the stop-and-frisk policing tactic he championed during his tenure that disproportionately affected black and Latino men.
“I was wrong and I am sorry,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg made the dramatic reversal on a controversial policy that permitted officers to stop and search individuals on the slightest of suspicions during his terms as the city’s mayor before the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in East New York on Sunday, saying one can’t change history but that he recognizes the mistakes he made.
“I was totally focused on saving lives,” he said. “But as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough.”
The apology came a week after he filed to be included in the Alabama Democratic primary, joining an already congested field that includes big-name candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and former vice president Joe Biden.
Bloomberg, who inherited the stop-and-frisk practice, said he believed it saved lives but that with hindsight he now sees he was wrong.
“As crime continued to come down as we reduced stops and as it continued to come down during the next administration to its credit, I now see that we could and should have acted sooner. And acted faster to cut the stops,” he said. “I wish we had. And I’m sorry we didn’t.”
According to the New York American Civil Liberties Union, some 5 million stop-and-frisks were reported during the 12 years Bloomberg was mayor from 2002 to 2013, with nearly 700,000 performed at the practice’s height in 2011. However, nearly 4.4 million people subjected to the stops were innocent, the ACLU said.
“Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops,” the ACLU said in its report on the Bloomberg administration that was published in August 2014. “Though they accounted for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41 percent of stops between 2003 and 2013. Nearly 90 percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent.”
In August 2013, a judge ruled that the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional as no one should be stopped because they match “a vague or generalized description.” Bloomberg then filed an appeal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ended the practice when he became mayor following Bloomberg, said the apology was long overdue but called its timing “transparent and cynical.”
“This morally bankrupt policy systematically destroyed the self-esteem of young men of color,” he said in a tweet. “ending it wasn’t a hard call.”
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, said Bloomberg wouldn’t have needed to apologize if only he listened to police while he was mayor.
“We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities,” Lynch said in a statement published on the union’s website. “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.”