On Thursday, representatives from Barneys New York and Macy's met with New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other civic leaders in an attempt to address the issue of racial profiling in its stores. These meetings come on the heels of an incident in October in which Trayon Christian, a black teenager, was arrested after he purchased a $350 belt on suspicion of using a stolen debit card. Macy's also had reports of stop-and-frisk incidents in its stores last year, reports WWD.
A spokesperson for the NYPD stated that, following October's incident, the NYPD put in place a city-wide procedure for retail security calls. Now, when store personnel suspect someone of shoplifting, they are required to call 911 for police response rather than deal with the incident themselves. The NYPD also established internal protocols for its officers when responding to these calls, although details were not shared.
Rev. Al Sharpton voiced his support for the policy change, stating, “Now we will know who in the store called the police. Before we didn’t know. With Barneys, someone in security knew someone at the precinct so they called on their cell phone.” Meanwhile, a Barneys spokeswoman thanked the participants for a "candid and productive discussion" and went on to state that "Barneys New York remains committed to treating everyone who comes into our stores with respect and dignity and looks forward to continuing the dialogue.”
The committee will reconvene in the coming week to continue the discussion. While we're glad to hear that, we have to ask whether this slight increase in transparency (calling the police via 911 rather than a personal mobile phone) represents a significant change in procedure. And, we wonder if the NYPD, which has been criticized for its controversial stop-and-frisk program and has received its own charges of racial profiling, is much better prepared than store personnel to protect shoppers from unfair treatment. Here's hoping a more significant change is on its way. (WWD)