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Debate rivals hammer Bloomberg over 'stop and frisk' policing in NYC

"The policy was abhorrent," said Biden, who did not accept the former New York City mayor's apology.
Mike Bloomberg arrives on stage at the Democratic Presidential Debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Michael Bloomberg’s rising presidential campaign got stopped and frisked on Wednesday night by the rest of the Democratic debate field, which piled on the former New York City mayor as he offered contrition for the contentious policing policy.

In his first appearance on a presidential debate stage, Bloomberg came under fire from a united front of his five rivals for the policy that led the New York Police Department during his mayoralty to stop and search thousands of residents of color in the city without traditional standards of probable cause.

Bloomberg, at the event hosted by NBC and MSNBC, apologized for the since-disbanded policy just before making his late entry into the 2020 presidential race and repeated his remorse.

"The one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, is how it turned out with stop and frisk," Bloomberg said, noting he inherited the policy. "What happened was it got out of control."

But the other candidates said that wasn't good enough.

"This isn't about how it turned out. This is about what it was designed to do to begin with," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. "It targeted black and brown men. ... You need a different apology here.”

Joe Biden said stop and frisk only stopped because the Obama administration wanted to provide more oversight over it.

Image: Stop-and-Frisk in NYC near Go-and-Frolic
NYPD arrest a man in a subway in 2012 in New York.Orlando Camargo / Third Eye Corporation/Flickr Vision/Getty Images

"It's not whether he apologized or not. It's the policy. The policy was abhorrent," Biden said, calling it a “violation of every right people have.”

The current mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who has endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, joined the pile-on from afar.

But Bloomberg defended himself from gang-up, though, noting that attitudes have recently changed on criminal justice and that almost every candidate on stage has mixed record on issues of race and policing.

"If we took off everybody that was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at sometime in their careers, there’d be nobody else up here," Bloomberg said.