Speaking in New York City on Monday night, billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg provided a blunt defense of the police tactic known as “stop-and-frisk,” a program that has drawn criticism, but has been credited with reducing shootings in the city.
The former mayor of New York, who served from 2002 to 2013, sought to portray a disproportionately small number of serious offenders, about 2 percent, as having been stopped by police — roughly what he argued he heard during his own extensive interviews with the police to try to come up with the figure.
Stop-and-frisk police tactics have faced intense scrutiny, and some claim they harass minority communities. Critics argue that the practice has resulted in wrongful arrests, racial profiling and possibly abuse of police power.
Of the more than 5.4 million people who were stopped between 2002 and 2014, only 490 were involved in shootings, and 197 had been convicted of some sort of crime before being stopped. This was roughly what Bloomberg estimated during his two-hour media briefing.
“My life — and the lives of all my friends and people I love — are safer because of it,” he said.
He acknowledged that the practice had no support from either local residents or civil rights organizations.
In the waning days of his time in office, Bloomberg publicly endorsed the program.
That he has doubled-down on the program now, his critics charged, raises questions about whether he is using it to alleviate his legacy. Bloomberg was explicit about the fact that he had no regrets over the program.
“I do not have any regrets,” he said. “Everyone who asks me about stop-and-frisk I tell them I support it. They tell me they’re crazy. And I say good.”
He said he would continue to work for the program, pointing to city politicians who had helped him implement stop-and-frisk policies.
“The police that’s stopping the people are stopping people who have committed serious, violent crimes — felonies,” he said. “Who would ever think that in a major city in America that you would enforce a law not used against violent criminals?”