Starbucks CEO calls arrest of two black men at Philadelphia store ‘reprehensible’

PHILADELPHIA — Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson responded to public outcry over the arrest of two black men on Saturday from a Philadelphia branch of the coffee shop, calling the incident “reprehensible.”

The arrest, which was captured on video that has since gone viral, sparked accusations of discrimination and racial profiling.

In his statement, Johnson outlined steps the company would take to ensure a greater “sense of community.”

Below is Johnson’s full statement:

Dear Starbucks Partners and Customers:

By now, you may be aware of a disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome.

I’m writing this evening to convey three things:

First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.

In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes — who is on the ground in Philadelphia — to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement. Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology.

We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leaders to understand and adopt best practices. The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values. Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia Police Department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.

We also will further train our partners to better know when police assistance is warranted. Additionally, we will host a company-wide meeting next week to share our learnings, discuss some immediate next steps and underscore our long-standing commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity. I know our store managers and partners work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day — which makes this very poor reflection on our company all the more painful.

Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.

Respectfully,

Kevin Johnson

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross is defending the actions of officers who arrested the men.

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 a 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 policies 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.

 

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5 comments

    • J (@ds18301)

      “…looking like thugs…”? You mean: “sitting being black men”. You have never had to suffer this kind of public humiliation and disgrace just because of the color your skin. Worse, you are incapable of even a shred of empathy as well as considering the negative consequence for the society as a whole (yes, including you). For all you know these men are veterans or other kinds of heroes but all you can see are two “thugs.” Your comments here are consistent and abhorrent. Its always the same pronouncement: white people who commit crimes are “excused” because they are pronounced drug addicts by you. Black people are criminals to you just for being black. Tragic.