Philadelphia police chief defends officers in Starbucks arrests
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross is defending the actions of officers seen in a viral video arresting two men at a Starbucks.
The video, which has racked up millions of views since it was posted to Twitter on Thursday, shows Philadelphia police officers arresting two African-American men inside a Starbucks location.
Melissa DePino, who posted the video, wrote, “The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing.”
In the video a man is seen telling an officer that he was meeting the two men there and asking what they did to warrant police being called.
Others off screen are heard saying, “They didn’t do anything.”
Ross said Saturday his officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Ross recorded a statement on Facebook Live in which he explains that Starbucks employees called 911 to report a trespassing complaint.
The employees told officers the two men wanted to use the restroom but were told the facilities are only for paying customers. The Starbucks employees then asked the men to leave, but they refused, Ross says.
Officers responded and asked the men three times to “politely to leave the location because they were being asked to leave by employees because they were trespassing.” When the men again refused to leave, they were arrested “without incident,” Ross says.
The men were taken to a police station and released when it became clear Starbucks didn’t want to press charges.
“They did a service that they were called to do,” Ross says of the officers. “And if you think about it logically, that if a business calls and they say that someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business, (officers) now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties. And they did just that.”
Ross, who is black, references his own experiences while making his case, saying, “As an African-American male, I am very aware of implicit bias.”
“We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department.”
In statement posted on Twitter, Starbucks apologized “to the two individuals and our customers.”
“We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores.,” the statement reads.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Starbucks’ apology “is not enough.”
He said he “asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to examine the firm’s polices and procedures, including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees.”
Kenney said he’s “heartbroken to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident like that,” which he says “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”
“Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the color of their skin,” Kenney says.