Michael Bloomberg is facing renewed scrutiny for his support of stop and frisk — a position he held until entering the presidential race three months ago — after audio surfaced this week showing his racially-motivated strategy behind the unconstitutional policing practice.
The offending comments came roughly one year after his third term as NYC mayor ended, during an address at the Aspen Institute in 2015, which Bloomberg reportedly sought to conceal from the public. Audio of the speech was shared to Twitter on Monday by podcaster Benjamin Dixon, along with the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist. A longer clip of Bloomberg's comments has been on YouTube since 2015.
After alleging (falsely) that 95 percent of all murderers and murder victims are young men of color, Bloomberg went on to explain why he was not concerned by the NYPD's almost singular focus on minorities.
"You want to spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets," he told the audience of roughly 400 people. "Put those cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods. One of the unintended consequences is people say, 'Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.' Yes, that's true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods."
"The way you get the guns out of the kids' hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them," he added, referring to a practice that produced a firearm in 0.1 percent of stops.
The audio had amassed nearly five millions listens as of Tuesday morning, with both progressives and conservatives seizing on the remarks. President Trump, who has previously called for a nationwide stop and frisk policy, wrote on Twitter that Bloomberg was a "TOTAL RACIST," before deleting the tweet. The President subsequently tweeted this instead:
Bloomberg's campaign also addressed the comments, pointing to his apology this past November, while devoting most of the lengthy statement to attacking Trump.
"I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused," the statement begins. "By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. 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."
The statement is "completely misleading," according to Christopher Dunn, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. When Bloomberg entered office, police were stopping roughly 100,000 people per year. By 2011, that figure had skyrocketed to 685,000.
"It is true that the very end of his administration that stops went way down, but that undoubtedly was a product of all the advocacy and litigation that was taking place," Dunn said. "He does not get credit for that, and it's notable that he did not try to take credit for it at the time."
Indeed, the comments hardly stand out among Bloomberg's long history of aggressive and at times bizarre justifications for stop and frisk. He has previously suggested that white people were stopped by the NYPD "too much"; likened those concerned about racist enforcement to the NRA; and sought to smear the federal judge who concluded that the policy disproportionately targeted minorities as "some woman."
On numerous occasions, he issued dire warnings that the end of stop and frisk meant New Yorkers "won't be safe anymore" — something that did not come to pass.
"This was not something he inherited," added Dunn. "It's something he created."