Former VP Joe Biden and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg debate the controversial "stop-and-frisk" anti-crime policy:
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Mayor Bloomberg, at the beginning of this debate you took incoming fire on this next topic. In 2015, this is how you described your policing policy as mayor, quote: "We put all the cops into minority neighborhoods." You explain that is quote, "Because that's where all the crime is." You went on to say, "and the way you should get the guns out of kids' hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them." You've apologized for that policy. What does that kind of language say about how you view people of color or people in minority neighborhoods?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk.
When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City. And I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. That's the basic right of everything. And we started a -- we adopted a policy which had been in place, the policy that all big police departments used of stop-and-frisk.
What happened, however, was it got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of it out. And I sat down with a bunch of African-American clergy and business people to talk about this, to try to learn. I've talked to a number of kids who had been stopped. And I'm trying to -- was trying to understand how we change our policies so we can keep the city safe.
Because the crime rate did go from 650, 50% down, to 300. And we have to keep the lid on crime, but we cannot go out and stop people indiscriminately.
LESTER HOLT: All right, mayor, thank you. Vice President Biden?
JOE BIDEN: Let's get something straight. The reason stop-and-frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea we send them there. A terrible idea.
Let's get the facts straight. Let's get the order straight. And it's not whether he apologized or not, it's the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was, in fact, a violation of every right people have. And we are the one, my -- our administration sent in people to monitor it. And at the very time the mayor argued against that. This idea that he figured out it was a bad idea, he figured out it was a bad idea after we sent in monitors and said it must stop. Even then he continued the policy.
LESTER HOLT: All right, mayor, would you like to make a quick response?
Yes, I would. I've sat, I've apologized, I've asked for forgiveness. But the bottom line that is we stopped too many people, but the policy -- we stopped too many people and we've got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country. There is no great answer to a lot of these problems. If we took off everybody that was wrong, off this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in their careers, there would be nobody else up here.