NEW YORK (PIX11) – As federal cases loom, Macy’s, Barneys and the NYPD met with civil rights officials Thursday to discuss so-called shop and frisk incidents in the city, in which customers allege retailers of targeting them for searches and even arrest because of their race.
The Reverend Al Sharpton walked out after the meeting to announce what he described as the second step in curbing incidents of “shop and frisk.”
“The Commissioner and the retailers agreed today that all complaints and all illegal engagements of the NYPD must start with a 911 call by the retailers to the police department,” Sharpton said.
The reason for this, according to Reverend Sharpton, is to create a trail which he said did not exist before.
“Part of the problem … is that when we are dealing with retailers that started this issue, no one comes up with how they determined the suspect,” Sharpton said.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis released this statement Thursday:
“In late October 2013, the NYPD instituted a policy specifically pertaining to the issue of retail store security calls to the police in connection with suspicious activities relating to suspected shoplifting,” he said. “The policy established response protocols for NYPD officers to such calls, requiring that store security personnel call ‘911’ for police response to these types of requests for assistance.”
Barneys and Macy’s ignited a firestorm of controversy when news broke in late October that they had unlawfully arrested black shoppers at the flagship stores for both retail giants.
At the time, PIX 11 News broke the story of actor Rob Brown’s false arrest at Macy’s in Herald square. The Brooklyn native said he believes was the color of his skin was the reason for his arrest.
Attorney Doug Wigdor settled with Macy’s nearly 10 years ago in a profiling case, and is representing Brown and several others in the current federal case against Macy’s. Wigdor, who did not take part in Thursday’s meeting, said real change will come from the Attorney General or a federal judge.
“They can issue an order, a consent decree or an order that actually has teeth to it, that actually says if you violate this, this is what the ramifications are going to be, whereas these meetings with the Commissioner about we’re going to do this or do that,” he said. “Well, that is great, but what’s actually going to happen if something is violated?”
As for Trayon Christian’s attorney Michael Palillo’s take on the NYPD meeting with officials, “It seems they want to correct some wrongdoings that went on.”
The federal cases are continuing to move forward. Barneys is slated to be back in a U.S. Southern District courtroom in early May while Macy’s is slated to be in a similar courtroom later that same month.