The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

It ‘saved countless lives’: How Mike Bloomberg defended stop-and-frisk for years before running for president

After defending stop-and-frisk for years, Mike Bloomberg apologized for the policy in November 2019, one week before announcing his 2020 presidential campaign. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg defended the city’s stop-and-frisk policing policy for years, even as data suggested there was little correlation to a reduction in crime, according to a Fix review of nearly two dozen Bloomberg appearances over the past decade.

You can watch what Bloomberg has said about New York’s policing policies over the years in the video above, including some footage not previously surfaced during the 2020 presidential campaign.

As stops rose during his time in office, Bloomberg defended the policy in part by suggesting it benefited minority communities the most.

“We have the lowest crime rate we’ve ever had in the history of the city, and that’s particularly important to black and Latino kids and their families and their neighborhoods because that’s where the crime is,” Bloomberg said in August 2011.

“The reason police officers make stops in Brownsville and East New York is not because of race, it is because of crime,” Bloomberg told congregants in June 2012 at the predominantly black First Baptist Church in Brownsville.

“We don’t need extremists on the left or the right running our police department, whether it’s the [National Rifle Association] or the [New York Civil Liberties Union],” Bloomberg said in April 2013.

In June 2013, Bloomberg said too few minorities were being stopped and frisked by police. In February 2015, he said, “The way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them.” And as recently as October, Bloomberg defended the program, just weeks before he apologized for the policy and entered the Democratic presidential primary.

Bloomberg’s defense of the policy adds to mounting criticism he has received in recent weeks for previous comments blaming the end of “redlining” as the cause of the 2008 financial crisis, defending New York’s surveillance of Muslims in 2012 and calling for fingerprinting of public housing residents in 2013. Bloomberg has also been accused of creating a culture of sexual harassment and degradation at his company, as The Washington Post reported this week.

In March, Bloomberg was asked whether he would run for president as a Democrat.

“It would be virtually impossible for me to go and to get that nomination,” Bloomberg said at the time. “… It’s just not going to happen on a national level for somebody like me starting where I am, unless I was willing to change all my views and go on what CNN called an ‘apology tour.’ ”

Less than a year later, Bloomberg has now apologized for stop-and-frisk at least a half-dozen times since announcing his candidacy in late November.

“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,” Bloomberg said during the ninth Democratic debate Wednesday. “… I’ve sat, I’ve apologized, I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people.”