MICHAEL BLOOMBERG has apologised for the New York Police department’s stop and frisk policy, a method that he previously stood by and backed during his tenure as mayor, but critics say he will need to do more to earn forgiveness.
The former three-term mayor of New York City had long supported stop and frisk and credited it for helping to reduce the murder rate. The controversial policing method has been widely viewed as racist because of its disproportionate impact on black men and Latino men.
The apology, which Bloomberg made at majority black megachurch Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, is being viewed by many as an attempt to win over black voters ahead of his possible presidential bid.
Speaking to the Christian Cultural Center congregation on Sunday, Bloomberg said: “I didn’t understand back then the full impact the stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives and as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough.”
He added: “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.
“I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
The 77-year-old, who is considering running as the Democratic presidential candidate, said that the use of the policing method had eroded the black community’s trust in him and he wanted to regain it.
Reverend Al Sharpton, who was among those who campaigned against the tactic during Bloomberg’s time in office, said that it would take more than one speech for people to forgive and forget and that Bloomberg would have to earn it.
Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, who has reduced the use of stop and frisk during his time in office as well as the crime rate, said people aren’t stupid and would be able to determine if Bloomberg’s apology was honest or convenient.
He said: “Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers knew stop-and-frisk was a broken policy and spoke out against it. Michael Bloomberg wouldn’t listen.
“We’ve spent six years undoing its damage. Neighbourhood policing is driving down crime and building up the bonds between police and community.”
Speaking to CNN, de Blasio said that while some New Yorkers may forget, none will forget the impact of the discriminatory policy.