Michael Bloomberg is heard defending his controversial stop and frisk policing policy in stark terms in snippets of audio that were posted on Twitter Monday, with the former New York mayor describing the policy as a way to reduce violence by throwing minority kids “up against the walls and frisk them”
In the audio, reportedly from a 2015 speech in Colorado, Bloomberg also claims that “95%” of “murders and murderers and murder victims” are male minorities between the ages of 16 to 25.
“You can just take the descriptions and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops,” he can be heard saying.
The audio was posted to Twitter by writer and author Benjamin Dixon on Monday. Dixon said earlier this year that he believes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the best option in the Democratic presidential field. While promoting the clip, and several other critical articles and videos of Bloomberg, Dixon has repeatedly tweeted “#BloombergIsaRacist.” He also did a podcast episode attacking what he called Bloomberg’s “racist, classist past.”
When contacted by CNN, Dixon said the audio was “hiding in plain sight,” and added that if people “hear the truth,” Bloomberg would have to drop out. He said he made no apologies for his support for Sanders.
CNN has not been able verify the authenticity of the recording. The Bloomberg campaign did not dispute its legitimacy.
In a statement responding to the audio, Bloomberg focused more on President Donald Trump, who tweeted about the audio, and less on his own comments.
“President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans,” he said. “I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. 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.”
He added: ” But this issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity.”
Dixon said the audio came from an appearance Bloomberg made in Aspen Institute in 2015. The Aspen Times reported at the time on Bloomberg’s comments, which match up with the audio that surfaced Monday. The Aspen Times also reported that Bloomberg and his team “asked the Aspen Institute not to distribute footage of his recent appearance.”
“That is where the real crime is,” Bloomberg is heard saying in the recording. “You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. You want to spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets, puts the cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods.”
Bloomberg then addresses the pushback to stop-and-frisk laws.
“So, one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that is true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that is true. Why did we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is,” Bloomberg says. “And the way you get the guns out of the kid’s hands is to throw them up against the walls and frisk them.”
Bloomberg goes on to argue in the recording that the policing technique leads people eager to not get caught to stop carrying a gun altogether.
The recording highlights one of the former New York mayor and presidential candidate’s biggest issues in seeking the presidency: He oversaw the implementation of stop and frisk as mayor, a policing tactic that allowed officers to detain a person on any type of vague suspicion, search that individual without a warrant and arrest the person if any kind of illegal substance or weapon was found.
The tactic drew widespread condemnation from minority communities in New York as discriminatory and ultimately ineffective.
Bloomberg, days before he declared his late-entry 2020 presidential bid, apologized for implementing stop and frisk, telling an audience at a predominately black church in Brooklyn in 2019 that while he “can’t change history, however, today I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
Bloomberg, until recently, vociferously defended his use of stop and frisk as mayor, arguing that the policy tactic brought crime down across the city and largely dismissed claims that the policy was discriminatory.
Last year, before he announced his bid, Bloomberg defended the policy by arguing it targeted “kids who walked around looking like they might have a gun” and that it works because “the result of that was, over the years, the murder rate in New York City went from 650 a year to 300 a year when I left.”
And even in 2012, when criticism of the policy was at its highest, Bloomberg visited Brooklyn’s First Baptist Church of Brownsville and told worshippers that the policy “should be mended, not ended.”
Those series of defenses have led a number of high-profile Democrats — including current Mayor Bill De Blasio — to question whether the former New York mayor reversed his position for political expediency.
“This is a death bed conversion,” de Blasio told CNN in November. “He had almost six full years to say it was wrong … we have had plenty of inflection points where he could have said, ‘You know what, I was wrong,’ … He has never cared to do that. And I think that says something about the veracity of this.”
Criminal justice is expected to be a flashpoint in the 2020 campaign, with Trump already looking to make inroads with minority communities by signing the First Step Act during his first term, a rare major bipartisan achievement during his presidency.
Trump seized on the comments Tuesday, tweeting that Bloomberg was a “total racist.” The tweet was later deleted.
Trump, though, supported stop and frisk as a New York City resident, and even argued during the 2016 election that he would take the policy nationwide.
“I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive,” Trump said in 2016. “In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked.”
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, more than 5 million stop-and-frisk stops were made during Bloomberg’s 12 years in office, with nearly 686,000 stops in 2011 being the high point during his tenure. Of those 5 million stops, 4.4 million did not result in an arrest or summons. Blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 50% of the stops in 70 out of 76 New York precincts; in 32 of those precincts, they accounted for more than 90% of the stops.
By Dan Merica and Cristina Alesci, CNN