On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Democrat presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg took a hit when audio surfaced of him celebrating his police department’s targeting of minority neighborhoods. The media pounced, quickly forcing the former New York City mayor to apologize for his dated comments. Yet, for all the outrage, the press ignored the nearly identical sentiments South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg voiced mere days earlier, during the New Hampshire Democrat debate.
“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 said during a 2015 appearance at an Aspen Institute event. Bloomberg then sketched their profile: “They are male minorities, 16 to 25,” before adding:
That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city. And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. Put those cops where the crime is, which means minority neighborhoods. So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my G-d, you are arresting kids for marijuana. They’re all minorities.” That’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because it’s where all the crime is.
In November, just before declaring he would run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bloomberg apologized for the stop-and-frisk policy police executed under his leadership. “Addressing a black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said the practice often led to the disproportionate detaining of blacks and Latinos,” adding he couldn’t “change history,” but now I realize, “I was wrong.”
While Bloomberg’s comments came nearly five years ago, and he has since apologized for the stop-and-frisk policy he ineptly described while speaking before the nonprofit Aspen Institute, the same cannot be said of Buttigieg’s Friday night comments, which came during the most recent Democratic debate.
Moderator Linsey Davis challenged Buttigieg on his record, noting that “under your leadership as mayor, a black resident in South Bend, Indiana was four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white resident. Now, that racial disparity is higher than the rest of the state, in fact, it’s higher than the rest of the nation, and that disparity increased in South Bend after you took office.”
Davis then asked the young former mayor how he explained “that increase in black arrests under [his] leadership.”
Buttigieg responded with misdirection—twice—by highlighting an unrelated statistic: “The reality is, on my watch, drug arrests in South Bend were lower than the national average, and specifically to marijuana, lower than in Indiana.”
Buttigieg’s deflection didn’t defeat Davis, however, with the moderator correcting the candidate, “No, there was an increase. The year before you were in office, it was lower. Once you came in office in 2012, that number went up. In 2018, the last number year that we have record for, that number was still up.”
Then Buttigieg channeled Bloomberg’s comments from years earlier, stating that “one of the strategies that our community adopted was to target—when there were cases where there was gun violence and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many in our community, burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers, we adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement would be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent group or gang connected to a murder. There things are all connected.”
Buttigieg’s comments went mainly unnoticed before the New Hampshire voting, allowing the young mayor to ride to a second-place victory, just behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But with attention turning the Nevada and South Carolina contests—states with “significant minority populations” compared to the Iowa and New Hampshire electorates—Buttigieg’s blunder may sound the demise of his candidacy, which already lacks the support of African-Americans, a crucial demographic for Democrat candidates.
Things will only get worse for the former midwestern mayor, with the dwindling field of candidates providing more opportunities for tough questions. And the natural follow-up to last week’s debate query about black marijuana arrest rates concerns Buttigieg’s firing of South Bend’s first American-American police chief, Daryl Boykins. The national media has yet to explore that local scandal, which threatens to blow up the former mayor’s shot at the White House.
Whether the national media bites is anyone’s guess. A good tell will be whether the media pushes Buttigieg on his Bloombergesque justification for a four-fold disparity in arrests of black pot possessors on his watch.