Receive last minute alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter deliver mornings during the week.
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia police commissioner on Saturday defended officers who arrested two black men at Starbucks, prompting accusations of racism on social media, the mayor's concern and the company's apology.
Videos posted online show officers handcuffing men at the center's establishment on Thursday. A white man in the video is heard saying he was meeting with the men and calls the arrest "ridiculous".
Commissioner Richard Ross said that Starbucks employees called 911 to say the men were trespassing. He said the officers were told that the men had entered and had been asked to use the bathroom, but were denied because they had not bought anything, as he said it was a company policy. He said that they later refused to leave.
Ross, who is black, said police asked the men to leave three times, but they refused and were later arrested, but were later released after the company chose not to prosecute. He said that the agents "did absolutely nothing" and that they were professionals in their conduct towards individuals, but "they recovered the opposite". He did not mention the person who said he was meeting with the men.
"As an African-American man, I am very aware of the implicit biases, we are committed to fair and impartial policing," Ross said. But he added: "If a business calls and they say that" Somebody is here that I do not want to be in my business anymore "(the officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and that's what they did "
Starbucks posted an apology on Twitter on Saturday, saying the company was "disappointed, this led to an arrest "and was reviewing his policies.
"We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our store," the company said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
Ross said he is not patronizing Starbucks, but he recalled an incident a few years ago in which a uniformed sergeant was denied access to a Starbucks restroom "so they are at least consistent in their policy."
Mayor Jim Kenney said he asked the Human Relations Commission to examine the company's policies and procedures "including the scope of, or the need for, implicit bias training for its employees."
"It hurts me to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident that, at least based on what we know at this point," seems to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018, "Kenney said in a statement.
Kenney he said a review promised by the police in similar situations "is fully justified given the unfortunate outcome of this event, particularly at a time when our criminal justice reform efforts are focused on avoiding unnecessary imprisonment."
Attorney Lauren Wimmer told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the men, whom she did not identify, were commercial real estate professionals and were meeting another man to discuss business, and she identified as a friend of the man they met.
A spokesman for the district attorney's office said the two black men were released "for lack of evidence" that a crime had been committed , but declined to comment further, citing a police investigation.