It’s not the first time Michael Bloomberg has apologized for his “stop and frisk” policies. It won’t be the last time, either, especially when he joins the debate stage in Nevada, where his Democratic primary opponents are licking their chops at the opportunity to hammer him over it. Bloomberg’s doing his best to pre-empt the attacks with a public mea culpa, as he did last night, but still referring to an “abuse” of the process rather than the policy itself:
Mike Bloomberg apologizes for "abuse of…stop and frisk," saying he "should've acted sooner and faster to stop it."
— ABC News (@ABC) February 14, 2020
Bloomberg actually began apologizing for it in November, when he began the process of running for the Democratic nomination. When visiting a predominantly African-American church in Brooklyn three months ago, Bloomberg cited improving crime statistics for a kind of blindness as to the personal impact the policy had on civil rights:
“Now hindsight is 20/20. But 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. I wish we had. And 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 and I’m sorry.”
At that time, CNN reported, the reaction to Bloomberg’s apology can best be described as mixed. The city’s public advocate questioned both its scope and its sincerity, suggesting it suspiciously looked liked clearing the decks for a presidential bid. Which, of course, it is:
Jumaane Williams, the public advocate for the city of New York, slammed Bloomberg for his apology Sunday, saying that it comes “a decade late.”
“Forgive many of us for questioning apologies a decade late and on the eve of a presidential run. It is not nearly enough to erase the legacy of the systemic abuses of stop, question, and frisk on the people whose lives were harmed by over-policing, nor the communities criminalized by it,” Williams said in a statement.
Williams continued: “Stop and frisk was just one of many tactics pursued by the Bloomberg administration which had a detrimental impact on lower income New Yorkers and communities of more color.”
Earlier this week, Bloomberg tried another tactic — blaming it on Rudy Giuliani, who did start the practice. As CBS News points out, however, Bloomberg was even more enthusiastic about it:
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Bloomberg said he “inherited” the policy of stop-and-frisk from his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.
“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,” Bloomberg said. “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.”
However, the number of stops skyrocketed under Bloomberg, and decreased only when a lawsuit to stop them sought and received class certification in the final two years of his tenure. In 2013, a judge found that stop-and-frisk was a “policy of indirect racial profiling.”
Just to remind readers, Bloomberg served three four-year terms as mayor. He ramped up stop-and-frisk and kept them at a high level until his tenth year in office, and only dialed it down after losing the lawsuit. It’s a little rich, so to speak, to claim he wasn’t aware of the impact of the policy while fighting a lawsuit over that very issue.
Don’t doubt for a second that Bloomberg’s debate opponents aren’t sharpening their swords over this issue. Elizabeth Warren has already broken out the R-word on this issue, and she won’t be the last.
Will mea culpas be enough in this cycle? Let’s end with two clips speaking directly to that point. The first is a discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe from earlier today, in which Rev. William Barber says it’s not anywhere near enough. “Policy represents heart,” Barber says, which doesn’t sound like he’s buying the sincerity pitch from Bloomberg. In the second, entertainer Charlemagne tha God, who wonders why black people are supporting “old white men who have the most racial legislation toward black people?” And in that, he doesn’t just mean Bloomberg.