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Bloomberg's Mayor Culpa: Too Little, Too Late?

November 18, 2019

For a long, long time, NYPD Confidential has maintained that, in his 12 years as mayor, Michael Bloomberg abdicated his responsibilities vis-a-vis the police department.

He exercised no supervision, allowing Commissioner Ray Kelly to run the NYPD with no constraints or boundaries, making him the longest serving and most powerful police commissioner in New York City history.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialOne result was Kelly’s spying on Muslim communities in the city, as well as in New Jersey and as far away as Buffalo. (And that’s only what we know of.) Another was Kelly’s overuse (to put it mildly) of the department’s longtime policy of Stop, Question and Frisk. Under Kelly, the department made 5 million stops, 685,000 stops in 2011 alone — yes, readers you read those numbers correctly — mostly of black and Hispanic males, ages 14-21, 90 percent of whom had committed no crime.

In 2013, after a full-blown trial, federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that Stop and Frisk, as practiced under Kelly, was unconstitutional. Kelly refused to testify at the trial, saying he was too busy, and sent Chief of Department Joe Esposito in his stead.

Now seeking the Democratic party’s nomination for president, Bloomberg on Sunday apologized for Kelly’s overuse of Stop and Frisk. He chose to make his announcement at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, one of the city’s largest black churches. “I now see that we could and should have acted sooner, and acted faster, to cut the stops,” he said. “I wish we had, and I’m sorry that we didn’t, but I can’t change history. However, today I want you to know that I realize back then that I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

Readers can decide for themselves whether Mayor Mike means any of this or whether this is his answer to Democratic party critics on the left; to black activists and black journalists like New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who wrote that no black or brown person should ever vote for Bloomberg; or to plain and ordinary black folk offended by Kelly’s Stop and Frisk. (Bloomberg said nothing — at least not yet — about Kelly’s Muslim spying, probably because Muslims lack the political clout that blacks have).

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittIndeed, after Scheindlin’s ruling, Bloomberg went after her hard, denouncing her decision as being based on “the flimsiest of evidence,” and adding that she was not interested in crime reduction.

As late as this January, nearly six years after Scheindlin’s ruling, Bloomberg still defended the policy, saying it had halved the city’s murder rate — which is something of a stretch. Since 1994, the number of murders in New York City has declined virtually every year to this day.

“We focused on keeping kids from going through the correctional system,” Bloomberg said then. “Kids who walked around looking like they might have a gun, remove the gun from their pockets and stop it.”

As for reaction to Bloomberg’s apology, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said it best. “We said in the early 2000s that the … emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities. His [Bloomberg’s] administration’s misguided policy inspired an anti-police movement that has made cops the target of hatred and violence, and stripped away many of the tools we had used to keep New Yorkers safe. The apology is too little, too late.”

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialKelly — who police sources say has had a falling out with Bloomberg, perhaps over this issue — could not be reached for comment.

Reached by phone and told of Bloomberg’s apology, Esposito at first laughed. Then he said, “I wish he [Bloomberg] had articulated his apology a little better. He makes it sound as though it was the wrong strategy. You can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

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