Speaking at a Black megachurch on Sunday, former New York mayor and potential 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg said he was wrong for supporting the stop-and-frisk policing strategy that disproportionately affected Black and Latino citizens.
“I was wrong and I am sorry,” he told attendees in Brooklyn, according to the New York Daily News.
“The fact is, far too many people were being stopped while we tried to [reduce crime] and the overwhelming majority of them were Black and Latino,” he said. “That may have included, I’m sorry to say, some of you here today.”
He went on to say that the “erosion” of trust that resulted from the policy has bothered him deeply.
“It still bothers me, and I want to earn it back,” he said.
It was Bloomberg’s first public speech since taking steps to join the Democratic presidential primary earlier this month.
The controversial policing policy allows police officers to temporarily detain, question and search members of the public on the street for potential weapons and illegal contraband if the officer has a reasonable suspicion of threat.
Bloomberg, who served three terms as NYC mayor from 2002 to 2013, had been an outspoken supporter of the policy until now.
Back in January, he argued at a U.S. Naval Academy conference that it led to a decline in the city’s murder rate. The ACLU of New York has disputed this claim, stating that the murder rate dropped before Bloomberg took office.
“We focused on keeping kids from going through the correctional system ... kids who walked around looking like they might have a gun, remove the gun from their pockets and stop it,” he said, according to CNN, when asked what he would say to the communities that were negatively impacted by the policy.
“The result of that was, over the years, the murder rate in New York City went from 650 a year to 300 a year when I left,” he added.
According to the ACLU of New York, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers who have been stopped and frisked were innocent of wrongdoing.
Between 2002 and 2017, New York City saw its highest number of reported stops — 685,724 — in 2011.
Rev. Al. Sharpton, reacting to Bloomberg’s news, applauded his reversal and apology but said: “we will have to wait and see whether it was politically motivated.”
“He called me after his speech and I communicated to him that it will take more than one speech for people to forgive and forget a policy that so negatively impacted entire communities,” he said in a statement. “However, I’m glad to see his position vocalized at a time when President Trump is calling for stop-and-frisk nationally and I’m glad this position is being taken by someone so identified with the policy.”
With Bloomberg’s sudden reversal following years of self-endorsement for the practice, and it coming on the eve of a potential presidential run, many on social media were quick to criticize his comments and cast doubt on his sincerity.
This story has been updated to include responses on social media.