Michael Bloomberg did something that was out of character Sunday: He apologized. Speaking at a black megachurch in Brooklyn, the former mayor of New York City apologized for the “stop-and-frisk” policing strategy that disproportionately targeted black and Latino people. “I was wrong,” Bloomberg said at the Christian Cultural Center. “And I am sorry.”
Bloomberg made the remarks as part of his first speech since he filed to enter the Alabama primary as a Democratic presidential candidate. It was a “remarkable concession by a 77-year-old billionaire not known for self-doubt that a pillar of his 12-year mayoralty was a mistake that he now regrets,” notes the New York Times. And it shows how Bloomberg recognizes his staunch support for the policy that allowed police officers to stop and search anyone they thought could be behind a crime would be a major vulnerability, particularly among black voters. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities,” Bloomberg said. “I was totally focused on saving lives — but as we know: good intentions aren’t good enough.”
Bloomberg also acknowledged that crime continued to drop even after the police started avoiding the practice. “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 should have acted sooner, and acted faster, to cut the stops,” he said. “I wish we had, and I’m sorry we didn’t.”
For some, it appeared to be the latest sign that Bloomberg is getting ready to formally announce his candidacy for the primary. A final decision on whether he will enter the race is “days, not weeks” away, a source told Axios recently. But the question remains whether the apology would be enough to calm years of anger considering Bloomberg staunchly defended the policy even after a federal judge in 2013 ruled it violated the constitutional rights of minorities. At the Christina Cultural Center, it didn’t seem the audience was too eager to praise Bloomberg. “Come on C.C.C., show some love and appreciation,” Rev. A. R. Bernard said. The New York Times reports Bloomberg received “tepid applause.”
Rev. Al Sharpton received a call from Bloomberg shortly after the speech and made it clear to him that one apology was not enough to turn the page. “You can’t expect people like us to forgive and forget after one speech,” Sharpton claims he told Bloomberg.
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