(CNN) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a full-throated defense of the New York Police Department's use of "stop and frisk" policing Tuesday evening, attributing the city's declining murder rate during his tenure as mayor to the controversial policy.
Taking questions from the audience during the United States Naval Academy's 2019 Leadership Conference, Bloomberg was told by a Naval Academy midshipman that "there have been a lot of controversies surrounding your support of the policy of stop and frisk that was being used by law enforcement to target African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans."
"What would you say to those in the two communities that have been negatively affected by the policy that you supported in the past?" the midshipman asked Bloomberg.
"We focused on keeping kids from going through the correctional system ... kids who walked around looking like they might have a gun, remove the gun from their pockets and stop it," Bloomberg said. He added that "the result of that was, over the years, the murder rate in New York City went from 650 a year to 300 a year when I left."
A 2018 report from the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that works against mass incarceration, found that murder rates continued to fall after "stop and frisk" was phased out and called into question the pollicy's effectiveness.
Bloomberg, who has told reporters he'll likely decide whether he wants to run for president in 2020 "in another month or so," could face questions on "stop and frisk" and its efficacy in a competitive Democratic primary race. This month, Bloomberg told reporters he'd self-fund his own campaign "so I didn't have to ask anybody what they wanted in return for a contribution."
Earlier this week, Bloomberg didn't mention "stop and frisk" in his remarks to civil rights leaders at the National Action Network in Washington, instead admitting to those gathered that he couldn't "stand up here and tell you every decision I have made as mayor was perfect."
But on Tuesday, Bloomberg once again voiced his support for "stop and frisk" policing, adding, "I think it's also true that most police departments around the world do the same thing, they just don't report it or use the terminology."
Earlier in his speech, Bloomberg warned against racial discrimination.
"I'll never forget my father, making out a check to the NAACP because he told me, 'Discrimination against anyone is a threat to everyone,'" he said to the gathered midshipmen.
Bloomberg added that with "stop and frisk," "we certainly did not pick somebody by race."
Instead, Bloomberg argued, police focused on "kids who might have a gun," before adding, "it was a program which we had, and then, when the number of guns we were confiscating started to fall and people left their guns at home, we tailed that off."