New Macy’s racial profiling claims have troubling similarities to past complaints

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NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – A fourth person is now claiming that a major New York City department store racially profiled him.  Upscale Barneys came under fire earlier this month after two young, black shoppers were accused of stealing expensive items they say they bought.  One is now suing Barneys and the city; the other has filed a formal complaint against the Madison Ave. store.

Now Macy’s is in crisis communications mode, especially after two shoppers claim they were discriminated against and accused of theft because of their race.  The second man, Brooklyn resident Art Palmer, came forward on Sunday with allegations of ‘shop and frisk.’  This is the second allegation in three days, after a well-known actor says he was handcuffed and paraded through the flagship location.

On Friday Actor Rob Brown told PIX 11 News exclusively that there was really only one viable reason as to why he was targeted by the NYPD as well as Macy’s flagship store, “I think it’s because I’m black.  Now I’m trying to bring a little bit of levity to that, but that is the only reason I can think of.”

After the initial interview Brown’s story went viral and prompted Macy’s to produce a rare Sunday afternoon statement.

However are the cases that have come to light since Friday part of past procedures playing out once again in the present?

On Monday morning PIX 11 News went to the U.S. District Court in Lower Manhattan and tracked down a 2004 civil suit that Macy’s settled nearly a decade ago charging the chain with racial profiling and the false arrest of Sharon Simmons-Thomas a paralegal out of the Bronx.

As in the case of of Brown she states that she was wrongfully detained and handcuffed against her will.

The complaint also alleges, that Macy’s used the code “1090” to identify black shoppers.

The lawsuit also produces statistics detailing how in 2002 approximately 1600 individuals were apprehended at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square.  Out of that group, 42% of the shoplifters detained were black, 42% were latino, while 8% were white.

The case prompted an investigation of 29 Macy’s department stores by the state.  At the head of the investigation was then-State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.  In January of 2005, Macy’s agreed to settle the racial profiling complaint with New York State for $600,000.  As a result, the parent company — Federated Department Stores — promised to change their practices when it came to policing customers, hire a security monitor to track complaints against Macy’s employees and institute better training practices.

The allegations made by Brown are eerily similar to the case that Macy’s settled with Thomas on many levels. One of which is the department store ‘perp walk’ listed in the Thomas case and described by Brown on Friday as, “Well they put me in cuffs and paraded me through the store.”

The big difference between now and then?  The NYPD was not involved in the initial case.  However, they were in Brown’s case.  In fact, PIX 11 News attained a copy of the “voided arrest” report.

Which brings us back to that rare statement issued by Macy’s on Sunday.  The spokesperson says that the initial findings of the investigation show that “Macy’s Personnel were not involved in Mr. Brown’s detention or questioning.” Adding, “This was an operation of the New York City Police Department.”

Yet on the voided arrest report attained it states the “Time/Place/Occurrence” and adds that the Arresting Officer was informed of a possible fraudulent card.

Brown’s attorney issued the following statement via text in response to decade old case, “It is troubling to hear of these unfortunate past events similarly involving Macy’s and our firm will be sure to investigate for any pattern of discrimination as we continue to pursue Mr. Brown’s claim.”

Additionally PIX 11 News reached out to Doug Wigdor, the attorney who represented Thomas in the settlement reached in 2004.

Wigdor, who has successfully tried and been awarded several seven-figure judgements for cases of profiling and discrimination would not answer any inquiries.  He simply offered up the following statement regarding his case involving Macy’s,  “The matter was amicably resolved and the subject matter and disposition are confidential.”

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