By Bernadette DeVito, Kings County Politics
It ain’t good enough for us.
That was much of the local reaction to former mayor and now presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s apology for instituting one of his most notable policies during his 12-year tenure. Under the policy remembered as stop-and-frisk, police officers embraced their authority to stop, ask questions, and frisk people whom they suspected of criminal behavior.
The policy resulted in thousands of undue stop-and-frisks in communities of color, resulting in a number of arrests for such small crimes as marijuana possession.
Bloomberg made his apology, which was his first speech as a presidential candidate, yesterday at the Christian Cultural Center (CCC), a predominantly black megachurch on 12020 Flatlands Ave in East New York. Noted Senior Pastor Dr. A.R. Bernard and his wife, Pastor Karen Bernard lead the church.
“I’ve got something important really wrong,” Bloomberg began. “I didn’t understand that back then, the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities … Now hindsight is 2020, 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.”
State Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud (D-Canarsie, East New York, Brownsville, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, Bergen Beach, Marine Park, Flatlands, Mill Island, Georgetown, Ocean Hill, Starrett City) whose district includes CCC, said she did not know of Bloomberg’s visit, but found the timing of his apology interesting.
“While everyone is entitled to have regrets, I would like to see him go into the affected communities and have that conversation with those who were personally affected and give details,” said Persaud.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired NYPD Captain, who met with Bloomberg hours before his public apology, was more accommodating in his remarks, saying he appreciated the sitdown with him.
“It’s important we learn from our past and move toward a more just future. Twenty-two years of policing taught me we can keep this city safe without leaving people in disgrace. I’ve fought my whole life for that safety and to reform from within,” said Adams, noting testified against the policy in the Floyd v. City of New York trial.
“Today, we reaffirm that stop and frisk is a lawful policing tool that was improperly abused in communities of color. An apology can never erase the humiliation and trauma that hundreds of thousands endured from abuses of stop and frisk. What it can do is provide a spark for greater healing along the long arc of history bending toward justice. Mayor Bloomberg’s apology moves in that direction, and I have further encouraged him to commit himself and his organization to the restorative justice and community engagement work needed both here and across our country,” Adams added.
Assemblymember Walter Mosley (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy), was not as accommodating.
“Now you want to apologize?!! Keep your apologies and just think of the hundreds of thousands of young black and brown men and women, along with their families, you impacted because of your doubling down of this historically regressive piece of so-called public policy. A “wise” man once said at a convention hall in Philadelphia, ‘”I can spot a con when I see one” – same phrase still applies in this case,” wrote Mosley on Facebook.
Current Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently returned to governing the city full-time after his own presidential bid ran out of steam, was also highly critical of Bloomberg’s apology. The promise to fight back against racial profiling was central to de Blasio’s campaign and helped propel him into the office following Bloomberg’s tenure.
In an interview with CNN, de Blasio questioned the legitimacy of Bloomberg’s statement.
“I’m looking at [the apogogy] and I just have to say, people aren’t stupid. Like they can figure out whether someone is honestly addressing an issue or whether they’re acting out of convenience. For years, so many of us said, when he was Mayor of New York City, this is hurting people. This is creating division. It’s creating a rift between our police and our community. And we said, in fact, that if our police and our community cannot have a partnership, we’re going to be less safe.” De Blasio said.
“Low and behold, when I came into office, we absolutely abolished the approach that Michael Bloomberg had taken to stop and frisk. The city has gotten safer six years in a row and the relationship between police and community is healing. So, there are many points where he could have acknowledged this. It seems awfully strange that it took till now.”
New York City currently boasts the lowest crime rate since the 1950s, which de Blasio and others attribute to the change in policing tactics, and efforts to improve the relationship between New Yorkers and police.
However, crime actually began to drop under former Mayor David Dinkins and continued to drop under former Mayors Rudy Guiliani, Bloomberg and de Blasio.
Bloomberg’s entrance into the race signifies the Democratic Party’s move to a more centrist mode into the runup to the 2020 presidential election.
This includes South Bend, Indiana centrist Mayor Pete Buttigieg moving to the top of the polls for the upcoming Iowa Presidential Caucus, former centrist Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick entering the race, former President Barack Obama’s comments about the party becoming more centrist and wins from two centrist Democrats in governor contests in Kentucky and Louisianna – both Republican stronghold states.