Bloomberg 'Embarrassed' by Stop-and-Frisk, Says 'What Happened Was It Got Out of Control'

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said during Wednesday's Democratic debate in Nevada that he was "embarrassed" about the stop-and-frisk policy used by New York Police during his administration.

Former Vice President Joe Biden responded to Bloomberg's explanation by saying that stop-and-frisk, which targeted residents of minority neighborhoods, continued even after moderators from the Obama administration asked Bloomberg to end it.

Recordings of Bloomberg surfaced Monday in which he said the way to prevent crimes in minority neighborhoods was "to throw them up against the wall and frisk them."

"The one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk," Bloomberg said.

"When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City," Bloomberg continued. "I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. That's the basic right of everything."

Bloomberg said the stop-and-frisk policy was used by "all big police departments."

"What happened, however," Bloomberg said, "was it got out of control."

michael bloomberg
Democratic presidential candidate former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mario Tama/Getty

Bloomberg then claimed he cut usage of the practice by 95 percent and then held conversations with the African American community in order to "change our policies to keep the city safe."

"Let's get something straight," Biden responded. "The reason stop-and-frisk changed was because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea that we sent them there."

"It's not whether he apologized or not," Biden said. "It's the policy. The policy was abhorrent and was, in fact, a violation of every right people have."

"[Bloomberg] figured out it was a bad idea after we sent in monitors and said it must stop," Biden added. "Even then, he continued the policy."

Before the debate, Biden said he was "anxious to talk about" the policy and Bloomberg's previous comments about it, which were reportedly made in 2015 at a speech at the Aspen Institute.

Billionaire Tom Steyer, who did not qualify for Wednesday's debate, said Bloomberg's comments equated to "racist stereotypes" which "have no place today."

"Anyone running for the presidential nomination should disavow them," Steyer said.

Bloomberg apologized for his remarks in a statement in which he acknowledged that the stop-and-frisk method was "overused" during his administration and that he should have eased up on the practice "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 continued.

"But this issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity," Bloomberg added.