Michael Bloomberg Apologizes for Stop-and-Frisk

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The first stop on Michael Bloomberg’s slow train to presidential candidacy was an apology.

On Sunday, the former New York City mayor stood in front of the audience at the Christian Cultural Center, a predominantly black megachurch in Brooklyn, and reversed his position on stop-and-frisk policing, once a foundational element of his leadership legacy.

“I was wrong,” Bloomberg said. “And I am sorry.”

Bloomberg has up until now stubbornly defended the aggressive practice, one that allowed the police to turn Black and brown neighborhoods—like the one that is home to the Christian Cultural Center—into hunting grounds. He continued to defend it even after the practice was ruled by federal court Judge Shira Scheindlin to be a form of racial discrimination and therefore unconstitutional. 

His apology was also a reversal of his own brand of political authenticity. 

“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,” Bloomberg said when asked about his own potential candidacy at an executive conference last March.

It looks like winning the Black vote is on everyone’s to-do list.

Regardless of his political ambition, Bloomberg’s quest is an important opportunity to understand how popular ideas have helped to destroy communities of color.

CityLab has an excellent breakdown of the damage the policy did back when it “looked like New York City police were drunk on stop-and-frisk”:

  • Between January 2004 and June 2012, the NYPD conducted over 4.4 million stops, over half (52%) of which were for African Americans compared to 10% for whites.
  • The number of stops more than doubled from 314,000 in 2004 to 686,000 in 2011, at the peak of New York City’s stop-and-frisk regime. No actual law enforcement action was taken in 88% of those cases.
  • People were frisked in 52% of those stops, but a weapon was found in only 1.5% of those cases.  
  • Police used force against African Americans in 23% of those stops compared to 17% of the stops of whites.
  • In 2013, African Americans and Latinos were stopped-and-frisked more often than whites, 60.1% vs 46.7%, but weapons were almost twice as likely to be found on whites than Blacks or Latinos.  

The stories of the 685,724 people who were stopped in 2011 have even been memorably captured by the @stopandfrisk Twitter bot. (“Other” and “furtive movements” were very popular rationales for harassment back in the day.)

Charles Blow, opinion columnist for the New York Times was unsparing in his assessment of the former mayor’s candidacy. 

“His expansion of the notoriously racist stop-and-frisk program in New York, which swept up millions of innocent New Yorkers, primarily young Black and Hispanic men, is a complete and nonnegotiable deal killer,” he says. “Stop-and-frisk, pushed as a way to get guns and other contraband off the streets, became nothing short of a massive, enduring, city-sanctioned system of racial terror.”

I do not have the heart to ask the family of Kalief Browder what they think of the mayor’s change of heart.

Four years after Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, she observed that police stops were down 96%. And yet, she said, “the enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley.” By 2018, New York City recorded the lowest number of homicides in nearly 70 years.

While police stops are down significantly, they still disproportionately affect people of color. 

Between 2014 and 2017, reports the ACLU of New York, young Black and Latino boys and men between the ages of 14 and 24 comprised 38% of police stops, and yet are only 5% percent of the city’s population.

Some 80% of them hadn’t done anything wrong. Yet, they got swept into a terrifying, dangerous, and expensive system that likely destroyed their lives.

Which begs a bigger question: Who is going to apologize to them?

Ellen McGirt



On Point

Oakland police are trying to curb racial bias by not pulling so many (Black) people over The Oakland PD has a tough reputation. It’s been under the direct supervision of a federal judge since 2012; in 2016, the city was rocked by an officer-involved scandal with an underaged sex trafficking victim. And, in 2016, Stanford researchers found a report and found that Oakland police are far more likely to stop and search black drivers or pedestrians than white ones. So now, they’re trying something new: Rolling back on "discretionary" stops, at least as an excuse to interrogate drivers of color. The program, which began last year, showed that traffic stops dropped from 31,528 in 2017 to 19,900 last year. Unfortunately, the racial disparity persisted. So, what’s next?
San Francisco Chronicle

A new documentary shows how Black girls are disproportionately punished at school Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools starts with the stats raceAhead readers know well: Black girls are over five times more likely to be suspended and six times more likely to be expelled than their white peers. But Samaya Dillard, now 13, puts a face to the numbers. Dillard was in second grade when her teacher broke up an argument with another child by dragging her outside, after which she wandered off. In the documentary, she says she considered ending her life. "Everything could be easier if I just jumped." Educator, author, and now documentarian Monique W. Morris says dangerous ideas about Black girls are endangering them. "You really begin to pick up on the stories across the country. You start to recognize that this is actually a pattern of violence against black girls," she told CBS News.
CBS News

A three-year undercover investigation reveals shocking racial disparities in real estate sales on Long Island The findings are not subtle. Over a period of three years, Newsday trained 25 undercover house hunters and gave them identical credentials, analyzed nearly 6,000 real estate listings, and secretly recorded 240 hours of meetings taken with 93 Long Island-based real estate agents. The findings showed a widespread pattern of discrimination: Black house hunters experienced "disparate treatment" 49% of the time—compared with 39% for Hispanic and 19% for Asian buyers. In some cases, real estate agents accommodated white buyers while refusing to show homes to people of color unless they provided additional financial assets. "This is something that didn’t happen in the deep South," said Greg Squires, professor of public policy at George Washington University, and an advisor to the program. "It happened in one of the most educated, most liberal regions of the country. These are significant numbers."

Chick-fil-A may be ending some donations to anti-LGBTQ causes The company first came under fire in 2012 for its CEO’s vocal support of the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that opposes same-sex marriage, full inclusion of LGBTQ service members, and has called for LGBTQ people to be imprisoned. Since then, they’ve been dialing back financial support for various groups with an apparent anti-LGBTQ bias. On Monday, the Chick-fil-A Foundation announced it would shift its focus to education, homelessness, and hunger, and end their support of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, two groups that have been criticized by LGBTQ advocates. New grant recipients will be Junior Achievement USA, the homeless-youth organization Covenant House, and donations to local food banks. Thanks, Popeye’s.
Business Insider

On Background

How to handle Thanksgiving as the non-black guest This hilarious "user guide" to black family Thanksgiving spills all the tea on the specific and beloved rituals and personalities you might find if you’re invited to a black household for the holiday. Written by beloved food historian Michael Twitty, it is clearly satire, but filled with genuine affection. Rules for what to bring (it’s gotta be something, as long as it isn’t pumpkin or parsnips), and who to sit near, how to load your plate, and what to expect for amusement. "Expect an elder to ask a young child to dance, perform, recite a poem, or read from the Bible against their will for the entertainment of other elders." But most of all, expect to feel welcome. "We love non-Black guests. So be prepared for the 'Naw we don’t do handshakes,' and deep breast hugs. Get air before you go in."

When father will never know best In a poignant essay, writer Lilian Min explores the new divide felt by so many first-generation Americans. How do you manage when the person who raised you, and raised you well, offends your notions of social equity, race, gender roles, and justice? Raised in a middle class family, within an "East Asian diaspora bubble in Central New Jersey," she feels herself growing away from her family and wonders how to navigate the often difficult patriarchy of a family that oppresses as much as it protects.
The Establishment on Medium

Five ideas for creating an inclusive workplace Michele Perras, director, Global Ecosystem and Alliances for Pivotal Software, offers five tips for building inclusive cultures, drawing on her 15 years of experience in Silicon Valley, and her more recent work on Pivotal’s Diversity and Inclusion council. All are helpful and straightforward, but number four, listen to your employees is one that lots of smaller organizations tend to give the short shrift. "Listen to them, ask why, and don’t assume to know what they need," she says. She also suggests 10 questions to ask your employees now, and they are excellent.


Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.


"Ma, I can't take it anymore." 

Kalief Browder to his mother, the day before he died by suicide.


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