The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights and a merchant group, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton met Thursday at police headquarters to settle the storm caused by the racial profiling accusations last year at the city’s major department stores.
The head of the National Action Network joined representatives from the NYCLU, the Retail Council of New York State and other groups for an hour meeting to discuss ways to resolve the issue.
Sharpton said the main issue was about jurisdiction and coming up with a way to accurately record suspicious activity and arrests in the stores.
In October, several black shoppers said they were wrongfully accused of thefts while browsing clothes at Barneys and Macys and arrested. There were conflicting reports by the police and store employees of how the situations happened.
Since those October incidents at Barney’s and Macy’s, the NYPD adopted a policy that requires store personnel to call 911 if they encounter any suspicious activity, rather than dealing with it themselves.
Sharpton said the commissioner promised to enforce that policy. “Police officers can’t get involved without a 911 call,” he said. “If shoplifting is a crime, it should start with a 911 call.”
Bratton didn’t attend the news conference. One of the shoppers who was arrested is suing Barneys and the NYPD.
Sharpton said having an official 911 call is key to getting a straightforward story because then all parties can have an official record that is easily accessible.
“Without the call, we don’t know if Barney’s is at fault . . . or the NYPD is at fault,” he said.
Ted Potrikus, of the Retail Council, said Bratton would work with the department stores to make sure they follow this policy.
Following the incidents in October, several retail stores like Macy’s. Barney’s and Bloomingdale’s posted a shopper’s bill of rights that informs customers about policies against profiling.
Sharpton said concerns over “shop and frisk” are far from over but the implementation of a bill of rights and Thursday’s meeting were steps in the right direction.