Who would have thought it would ever come to this — that we need a bill of rights to protect black shoppers from racial profiling at retail stores?
Because shopping while black has become hazardous, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and retail executives have developed list of rules that will be posted inside stores to ensure that black shoppers will not be racially profiled and targeted simply for buying expensive items, reports The New York Daily News.
According to the bill of rights, store employees who racially profile customers can be disciplined and possibly fired. Also, vulgar language or excessive force while detaining suspects is prohibited. Employees must “respect the basic civil and legal rights of any person suspected of a crime,” the list says.
Regulations must be applied nationwide and stores will be subject to internal tests to make sure they are in compliance. The list must be posted in common areas in the stores, available upon request and placed on store websites. Some stores have even promised to run ads publicizing the bill of rights to customers.
The bill comes after a string of racial-profiling allegations and lawsuits from black shoppers. To prevent this from happening again, a coalition of high-end retailers such as Barneys, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and other department stores and civil rights leaders came up with a “bill of rights” to protect customers from “shop-and-frisk” practices.
Sharpton called the “best practices” agreement, which is the first of its kind between community leaders and the retail industry, as a step in the right direction. “The message I think is very simple,” said Ed Goldberg, Macy’s vice president. “We understand the gravity of the situation. . . . We subscribe to the document that’s going to be released by the retail council.”
The coalition, however, has been unable to convince the NYPD to participate. “We cannot have an agreement with the NYPD without the incoming commissioner saying, ‘We agree to that,’ ” said Sharpton, who has requested a sitdown with newly appointed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. While Bratton’s office has yet to issue a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio told the newspaper that the commissioner-designate would be happy to meet with the group.
“Mayor-elect de Blasio has said repeatedly that his administration will have zero tolerance for racial profiling of any kind,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith, adding that de Blasio “deeply appreciates” the retailers’ willingness to adopt the new policies.
Bratton was first police commissioner at a time when crime was rampant in New York City. However, he’s now working for a mayor who was elected on the premise that he would crack down on practices like stop-and-frisk that disproportionately impact the minority population of the city. He was credited for getting the city on a path to less crime, though some of his tactics were controversial. He went on to become a law enforcement leader in Boston and Los Angeles. It’s his record in LA, where traffic stops increased under his leadership, that has already got critics weighing in.
We’ll have to wait and see how Commissioner Bratton will handle this and a number of other issues he’ll be faced with.