Trayon Christian is a lot like us. When pay day rolls around, he wants to go shopping. We think he might be a more practical shopper than us, though, because he went to the Madison Avenue Barneys with just one item in mind: a $349 Ferragamo belt. He'd seen rapper Juelz Santana wearing the belt, and wanted one for himself. Christian paid with his debit card, furnished his state ID when asked, and went on his way. If only we had the same restraint to exit a store after only one purchase.
Unfortunately, there are more serious differences in our shopping experiences. Christian's trip to Barneys ended with his arrest for a crime he didn't commit. When he reached East 60th Street, he was approached by two undercover police officers who looked inside his bags and asked him for ID. The New York Daily News, reports the officers asked him, "How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?" And, then Christian was handcuffed and taken to the 19th Precinct station, where he spent two hours in a holding cell. He was finally released with barely an apology. If you're feeling like you've missed something here, you're not alone.
Christian says the officers accused him of fraud. "They said my card wasn't real, it was fake. They said someone at Barneys called to report it." However, Barneys released a statement to NY Mag that "after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale." So, if Barneys didn't request law enforcement, as the officers claim, why was Christian stopped? And, upon providing proper identification to verify the debit card he used, why was he detained? Christian claims this is an instance of racial profiling, and he was so disgusted by the incident that he returned the belt a few days later, vowing to never shop at the retailer again. He's also planning a law suit.
According to the story in the New York Daily News a spokeswoman for the NYPD denies Christian was detained for two hours. She said he was brought into the precinct at 7:04 p.m. and was released at 7:45 p.m. Inspector Kim Royster adds, “Mr. Christian was held in police custody for approximately 42 minutes, and as soon as we determined that the card was authentic, he was immediately released."
New York City's Stop and Frisk policies have come under major scrutiny over the past few months — especially with the upcoming mayoral elections in November — and it's in part because of incidents like this. In response to Christian's arrest, Barneys also told NY Mag, "The NYPD said it has gotten 53 grand larceny complaints this year for credit card fraud at Barneys’ Madison Ave. store and has made more than 47 arrests. But, it’s unclear how many of those arrested were actually charged with a crime and how many were, like Christian, released." Regardless of the history of larceny at the retailer, why was Christian targeted that afternoon?
The problem at hand is perhaps not with Barneys. And, though the retailer usually doesn't comment during pending litigation, it offered an official statement for this case: "In this instance, we feel compelled to note that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights. We are very sorry that any customer of our store would have this experience." But, what does this say about the larger issue of racial profiling that is plaguing our city? Sound off in the comments below. (New York Daily News via NY Mag)