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Outgoing NYPD Commissioner sounds off on Mike Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk apology

Stephanie Pagones

Outgoing New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said he respects former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for apologizing for supporting the controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy, and noted that stopping suspects is an important part of the job – if done so correctly and constitutionally.

“It's an important tool,” O’Neill told FOX Business of stop and frisk, “but it has to be used correctly and obviously it has to be used constitutionally. It's a good way ... to get weapons off the street. And, you know, this is part of neighborhood policing. Precision policing is making sure that we focus on the people involved in violence and crime. And if we do that, we do it respectfully and constitutionally, I think people understand that.”

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Bloomberg – who served as the mayor of New York City for three terms, has filed paperwork for a potential run for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. Sunday, Bloomberg during  an 11-minute speech at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, said of the controversial stop and frisk, “I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong,” he said, “I now see that we could and should have acted sooner, and acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had and I’m sorry that we didn’t … I realize back then I was wrong."

Bloomberg added that during his “final year in office, support for the department had eroded. The main reason was the practice of something called stop-and-frisk.” Bloomberg also told the crowd. “Our focus was on saving lives. The fact is far too many innocent people were being stopped while we tried to do that. The overwhelming majority of them were black and Latino. That may have included, I’m sorry to say, some of you here today. Perhaps yourself or your children, or your grandchildren, or your neighbors, or your relatives."

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The controversial policing strategy gave members of the NYPD the authority to detain any person they deemed suspicious. But, as Bloomberg noted, it led to innocent people being stopped, and caused the relationship between police and the public to deteriorate further, he said.

O'Neill, who rose to deputy chief during Bloomberg's tenure as mayor, announced earlier this month he would be stepping down from his post as the Big Apple's top cop after nearly 37 years with the largest police force in the country. He’ll be moving on to the private sector and taking on the role of Senior Vice President and Global Head of Physical Security for Visa.

“I think it’s a good thing,” O’Neill said of Bloomberg's apology. “And it's up to New Yorkers whether they accept it or not. But if we're going to move forward, I think it's important. I think it's important that he did that. So I respect him for it.”

O’Neill noted he’s no stranger to apologies – in June, he apologized on behalf of the NYPD for its historic police raid at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969.

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Critics of stop and frisk saw the tactic as unconstitutional. Before stopping and detaining a person, police are required under the Constitution's fourth amendment to have probable cause of suspicion that a crime was committed, according to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute.

O'Neill  went on to say people sometimes believe there is a dichotomy between someone who is a crime fighter and someone who is a community policing advocate, but in reality, “it’s got to be both.”

“It's got to be both in the long run that keeps the city safer and it keeps the police officers safer, too,” he said, later adding: “I'm an optimist by nature, and I think things will continue to improve in this city.”

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Check back Tuesday for more of FOX Business' sit-down interview with outgoing NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill. 

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