(CNN) Michael Bloomberg apologized for the first time on the campaign trail Thursday for the New York Police Department's "stop and frisk" policing tactic, which he repeatedly defended while serving as mayor of New York. The apology followed audio from 2015 surfacing earlier this week where Bloomberg is heard describing the policy as a way to reduce violence by throwing minority kids "up against the walls and frisk them."
His comments came during a launch event for "Mike for Black America" in Houston at the Buffalo Soldier National Museum.
"There is one aspect of approach that I deeply regret, the abuse of police practice called stop and frisk," Bloomberg said. "I defended it, looking back, for too long because I didn't understand then the unintended pain it was causing to young black and brown families and their kids. I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it. I didn't, and for that I apologize."
Bloomberg had previously apologized for the policy in November 2019, right before he announced his candidacy. However, this marks the first time Bloomberg has issued an apology while speaking to voters on the campaign trail.
The former mayor pledged to work on reforming the criminal justice system and investing in communities that have been affected by these issues.
"So tonight, let me make it clear, as president of the United States, I will work to dismantle systems that are plagued by bias and discrimination. I will invest in the communities that borne the brunt of those systems for generations. And I'll put this work at the very top of our agenda," Bloomberg said.
Prior to taking the stage, Bloomberg was introduced by a number of black mayors across the country who have endorsed his presidential bid -- including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who endorsed Bloomberg earlier in the day.
Earlier this week, audio surfaced where Bloomberg is heard describing the policy as a way to reduce violence by throwing minority kids "up against the walls and frisk them." Bloomberg, in the audio reportedly from a 2015 speech in Colorado, also claims that "95%" of "murders and murderers and murder victims" are male minorities between the ages of 16 to 25.
On Wednesday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during a press campaign stop, Bloomberg said those comments do not reflect the way he thinks or the way he led as mayor of New York City.
"It was five years ago," Bloomberg said. "And, you know, it's just not the way that I think and it ... doesn't reflect what I do every day. I led the most populous, largest city in the United States and got reelected three times, the public seemed to like what I do."
After his comments surfaced earlier this week, Bloomberg put out a statement saying he has apologized for his support of the policing practice, but did not apologize for his specific comments.
"I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized -- and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities," his statement reads.