The accusations of racial profiling lodged against New York department stores Macy’s and Barneys have reached the state attorney general’s office. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the two department store chains until Friday to turn over information about their policies for detaining and questioning customers based on race.
But in their defense, both department stores are trying to shift the blame to the New York Police Department.
“This was an operation of the New York City Police Department,” Macy’s spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in a statement, adding that store “personnel were not involved” in the incident.
In addition, Barneys Chief Executive Mark Lee likewise said his employees had no part in two incidents involving Black customers.
“We believe that no Barneys employees were involved in those incidents,” Lee said after a meeting in Harlem with civil rights leader Al Sharpton and members of his National Action Network. “No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security, and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities.”
NYPD chief spokesman John McCarthy countered those claims, saying that in both Barneys’ incidents and the Macy’s case, officers were acting on information provided by store security.
“In both instances, the NYPD were conducting unrelated investigations” in the store, Reuters quotes McCarthy as saying.
A fourth shopper in New York stepped forward Sunday claiming that he was racially profiled after he made an expensive purchase at Macy’s Herald Square, which has also been accused of racial profiling by actor Robert Brown.
Art Palmer, a 56-year-old exercise trainer from Brooklyn, came forward saying that he had been surrounded by police officers after he made an expensive purchase at Macy’s flagship store.
Palmer says the incident happened in April when he purchased $320 worth of Polo dress shirts and ties.
He said he was surrounded by NYPD police officers in plain clothes about three blocks away from Macy’s where he made the purchase without problem.
“Treme” actor Robert Brown made the same accusations against the same Macy’s, and two other shoppers accused Barneys New York of racial profiling as well.
A 19-year-old shopper, Trayon Christian, is suing Barneys after he was detained by police officers when he purchased a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt back in April.
Another Barneys shopper also stepped forward, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, who says she was accused of credit card fraud in February when she purchased a $2,500 designer bag.
Schneiderman’s office yesterday released letters sent to Barneys’ Lee and Macy’s Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse, notifying them that it is investigating a total of four complaints from black shoppers.
“The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company’s commitment to that ideal,” wrote Kristen Clarke, who heads the attorney general’s civil rights bureau, in the letters to Lee and Sachse.
Sharpton and other leaders on Tuesday called for a summit that would include a “broad section” of city retail executives.
“This must be done immediately,” Sharpton said after meeting with Lee. “Not weeks — days, hours. There needs to be a meeting.”