Michael Bloomberg’s campaign hit a bump in the long road to the White House on Tuesday when a 2015 recording of the former New York City mayor suddenly resurfaced endorsing the “stop and frisk” crime prevention program.
Just as Bloomberg started making some national inroads with his Democratic presidential campaign, the recording went viral where he can clearly be heard defending the anti-crime program saying that other law enforcement programs across the country could look at it as a way to identify minorities who are suspected of perpetrating a crime.
“Ninety-five percent of murders, murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops,” Bloomberg is heard saying in an interview with the Aspen Institute in 2015.
“They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city (inaudible).”
Bloomberg also noted that people complained that "we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.”
“And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them."
The billionaire businessman publicly apologized last November for the program right before announcing his run for the presidency at New York’s Christian Cultural Center, a predominantly Black megachurch in Brooklyn.
“I was wrong. And I am sorry,” he said during a speech where he spoke directly to a group of people who were disproportionately affected by the policy which critics blasted as race-based. Some city officials questioned his choice of location and the fact that doing so would be a way in with Black voters who are crucial to each of the 2020 Democratic candidates’ outreach.
Now Bloomberg is apologizing again and President Trump is taking full advantage of this latest hiccup.
Even though Trump has been a vocal supporter of the stop and frisk policy himself, he posted the audio clip of Bloomberg’s speech on Tuesday and in a now deleted tweet, added that the billionaire is a “total racist.”
In a statement issued to the press on Tuesday, Bloomberg disputed Trump’s claims while issuing yet another mea culpa, trying to explain why he advocated for stop and frisk during his 12-year tenure as mayor.
"President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans. I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities.”
“But this issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity. I believe we need to end mass incarceration and during my tenure we reduced incarceration by 40% and juvenile confinement by more than 60%. We created the Young Men's Initiative to help young men of color stay on track for success, which President Obama built on to create My Brother's Keeper. And we overhauled a school system that had been neglecting and underfunding schools in Black and Latino communities for too long.
“In contrast, President Trump inherited a country marching towards greater equality and divided us with racist appeals and hateful rhetoric. The challenge of the moment is clear: we must confront this President and do everything we can to defeat him. The President’s attack on me clearly reflects his fear over the growing strength of my campaign. Make no mistake Mr. President: I am not afraid of you and I will not let you bully me or anyone else in America. Between now and November, I will do everything I can to defeat you whether I am on the ballot or not.”
According to The New York Times, the NYPD used “stop and frisk” to question and sometimes physically pat down people who they believed to be involved in some form of criminal activity. The majority of those people were young Black and Latino males. Often times people of color were stopped walking on the street, living in public housing, or driving to work. The efforts allowed the NYPD to track crime trends in various communities across the city.
While the policy had been a staple part of the NYPD’s efforts, when Bloomberg took office in 2002, stop and frisk saw a dramatic increase. By the time he left office in 2013, over 5 million stops had been recorded by the police.
“The temperature in the city at the time was that the police were at war with Black and brown people on the streets,” Jenn Rolnick-Borchetta, the director of impact litigation at the Bronx Defenders, told the Times.
The group went on to successfully sue the department over the practice, which was eventually deemed unconstitutional because the stops were based on race.
Bloomberg, who has spent nearly $500 million on his presidential campaign thus far, is trying to focus on his efforts in the upcoming primaries, especially in South Carolina which will include many more undecided Black voters. While his campaign has strategically issued endorsements from several high profile Blacks on Wednesday including U.S. Virgin Islands Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, New York Congressman Gregory Meeks and Georgia Rep. Lucy Mcbath, some of the other presidential primary rivals are attempting to capitalize off of this idea that he has racist tendencies in the policies he supports.
“Mike Bloomberg’s remarks in the video are extremely disturbing. The racist stereotypes he uses have no place today, and anyone running for the presidential nomination should disavow them,” said 2020 candidate Tom Steyer in a statement to Fox News.