Ocasio-Cortez blasts Bloomberg on stop and frisk: 'People's lives were ruined'

Ocasio-Cortez blasts Bloomberg on stop and frisk: 'People's lives were ruined'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWhat the coronavirus reveals about the race grievance industry Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday panned former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergNew York City auctioned off extra ventilators due to cost of maintenance: report DNC books million in fall YouTube ads Former Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs MORE's response to leaked audio this week that shows him defending the controversial policing policy known as "stop and frisk.”

An audio clip from 2015 surfaced on Tuesday of Bloomberg defending the practice of law enforcement questioning and searching people for weapons on the street, saying that nearly all murderers and murder victims "fit one M.O." of young minority men. The stop-and-frisk policy was widely criticized for racial profiling and ineffectiveness in reducing crime.

Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrugmaker caps insulin costs at to help diabetes patients during pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Sen. Brown endorses Biden for president MORE (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential primary, said that Bloomberg's attempt to distance himself from those comments fell short and failed to take responsibility for the policy while he served as mayor of the city that includes her district.

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"That was my family. And that was my community. And that was my neighborhood," said Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens.

"People's lives were ruined. So are those folks going to get their records expunged? With a tweet? They're not," she added in a conversation with reporters near the House floor. "So I think that we need something a little bit more than that."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE and his campaign manager, Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, seized on the clip on Tuesday as evidence that Bloomberg is a "complete racist."

"Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops," Bloomberg says in the video. "They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York. It’s true in virtually every city."

Bloomberg had previously apologized for stop and frisk, and in a statement on Tuesday, he acknowledged that the policy was "overused" and that he regretted it wasn't ended sooner.

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"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," Bloomberg said.

However, the use of stop and frisk initially rose significantly during his time as mayor and declined in part because of litigation against it.

According to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the number of recorded stops rose from 97,296 when Bloomberg took office in 2002 to 685,724 in 2011. It decreased to 191,851 stops in 2013, his last year in office. More than 80 percent of the people stopped were black or Latino.

Ocasio-Cortez said that it was misleading for Bloomberg to attempt to distance himself from stop-and-frisk policies.

"Stop and frisk was a uniquely and largely Bloomberg administration policy. I don't think he can blame it on a predecessor," she said.

Bloomberg, who is trying to cast himself as a centrist alternative to candidates such as Sanders, unveiled three new endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday in the face of the latest controversy over stop and frisk.

Centrist House Democrats are openly fretting that Sanders, who won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night following a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, would be a disaster if he becomes the party's nominee. Some even fear that having Sanders at the top of the ticket could lead to Democrats losing the House.

Ocasio-Cortez downplayed those concerns, noting that the situation would be reversed if a more centrist candidate such as Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar's husband recounts battle with coronavirus: 'It just suddenly hit me' Hillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Wisconsinites put lives on the line after SCOTUS decision MORE (D-Minn.) were currently the front-runner.

"I think that no matter what, we're gonna unify under the nominee. There will always be concerns about party unity no matter who it is, right? If Klobuchar or whomever was the front-runner right now, there would be a lot of stress as to whether progressives would unify," she said. 

"Similarly, with Bernie being the front-runner, there's going to be stress around more conservatives rallying behind that nominee," she added.

But she urged Democrats to set internal differences aside and focus on beating Trump in November.

"I think we need to all acknowledge the existential threat," Ocasio-Cortez said. "We need to be bigger than that."