Barneys Bias leading to 'shop-and-frisk'

10/31/2013, 11:36 a.m.
Shop and frisk

However, both stores and the NYPD are at odds and have been subjects of finger-pointing. The retailers say police acted on their own to track down the victims while the NYPD says the stores told them to go after the shoppers.

Barneys contends that none of its employees provided any information to the NYPD to lead them to the “suspects” that we’re later detained by the NYPD. However, NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said, “In both instances, the NYPD officers were conducting unrelated investigations and took action based upon information brought to their attention by Barneys employees while in the security room.”

According to this information from the NYPD, it is clear that the police were nowhere near the incidents when they occurred and could only take action based upon information given to them by Barneys employees.

“Barneys is a high-end department store, and when people of color enter the store, there are employees who define Black and Hispanic customers not as potential customers, but as suspects,” said Eric Adams, former retired NYPD captain and Brooklyn borough president-elect.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this week that he’s asked Barneys and Macy’s to turn over their policies when it comes to dealing with customers. In a letter to both stores, Schneiderman said he plans to get to the bottom of the issue.

“The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your companies’ commitment to that ideal,” he said in the letter.

While these stories are making headlines, the concept of being racially profiled is nothing new to Black America. In fact, many believe it’s part of the culture. One Gallup.com survey found that nearly half of African-Americans said they were victims of shopping while Black, and a quarter said they have been targeted by retail employees because of their race.

Since the recent incidents, several big names have gotten involved, including the Rev. Al Shapton, Adams and Kirsten Foy. Sharpton recently called for a proposed boycott of retailers who participate in racial profiling that could affect the upcoming holiday season shopping.

On Tuesday, Sharpton held a press conference with Barneys CEO Mark Lee after the two met privately with several other civil rights leaders, including NAACP New York Conference President Hazel Dukes and former New York Gov. David Patterson.

Sharpton said that stores victimize Black shoppers with predisposed bias. He wants to meet with CEOs from other retailers to address conduct and policy in their stores.

“We intend to deal with the bottom line of how we proceed to protect the community, or the community should not invest consumer dollars in companies or stores who do not respect them personally,” Sharpton said. “Our concern is racial profiling and bias.”

At the press conference, Lee apologized for the experiences that Christian and Phillips went through and stated that Barneys doesn’t tolerate discrimination.

A preliminary investigation concluded that no one from Barneys New York had anything to do with the arrests of Christian and Phillips. Several reports indicated that store employes tipped off police to go after both victims.