In February 2008, two African American men were trying to figure out which of several keys was the correct one to unlock the exterior door of a basement apartment that one of the men was renting. New York City police officers stopped and questioned them.

The incident formed the basis of a 2013 class action suit against then mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD, alleging the popular stop-and-frisk protocol by police was unconstitutional and discriminatory. At its height of popularity, some 700,000 people were detained under stop and frisk — almost all of them African American or Hispanic young men. 

The courts sided with the NYPD, and for years stop and frisk was credited by many — including Bloomberg — for a significant factor in a 12 to 15 reduction in New York crime. But the practice waned as protests increased.

It was a contentious issue — and still is.

During the Democratic presidential debates in Las Vegas, Bloomberg was asked about the controversial practice and says he has apologized in recent years. “I've sat, I've apologized, I've asked for forgiveness,” were his exact words.

Is the apology warranted?

Research suggests so. The dip in crime is now attributed to increased police presence in poor, underserved communities. Stop and frisk only seems to work when police have significant reasons to suspect someone was involved in an actual crime, not when a person looks suspicious.

The issue will likely surface again during a contentious primary, but now there’s a little more data to go on.

Video Courtesy of NBC News

Published on Feb 21, 2020