Stop and Frisk: The Policy Bloomberg’s 2020 Campaign Can’t Escape

“There is no path to the nomination without the black voter,” says Ted Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

In the context of the 2020 election, there has been a lot of conversation around criminal justice reform, specifically in communities of color.

But the subject has reached a boiling point around the candidacy of Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and former advocate of the stop-and-frisk police enforcement policy that targeted people of color, often young and male, for increased scrutiny.

Defining 2020: Stop and Frisk

A controversial policing policy where law enforcement would randomly search largely young, male African Americans. Also referred to as ‘Broken Windows’ policing, the policy has been labeled by some as discriminatory and unconstitutional. See more 2020 definitions here

Footage from a 2015 appearance where Bloomberg defended the policy has re-emerged.

In it, he doubles down on the racial stereotyping at the core of stop and frisk, and unabashedly defends the approach. So what is this policy, and how does it relate to this moment in time in the context of politics, changing social and cultural norms and racial equity?

Click on the player above to hear the conversation on Bloomberg, ‘Stop and Frisk,’ and civil liberties in 2020.

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET


  • Jeffrey Fagan is a Professor at Columbia Law School. Fagan was also one of the authors of a 2005 analysis of racial bias in the NYPD’s use of Stop and Frisk. He says that stop and frisk is a constitutionally permitted activity, but the way the policy was carried out in New York City was racially discriminatory. 
  • Theodore R. Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In 2014, Johnson wrote a piece for The Atlantic about the inherent racism of stop and frisk. On the topic of African-American leaders and politicians endorsing Bloomberg, Johnson tells Henderson, “I think this is black political pragmatism at play.”
  • Lester Spence is a Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Spence says “stop and frisk is part of a broader suite of policies we call Broken Windows policing. We know that Broken Windows doesn’t solve the crime problem. It makes it worse.”

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