Barneys Report Counters Profiling Allegations

NEW YORK (AP) -

In a review commissioned by Barneys New York, an attorney found the luxury store does not have a written or unwritten policy to profile customers based on race and didn’t initiate any police action against two black customers who said they were wrongly accused of credit card fraud, complaints that ignited a furor.

Last month, the customers separately accused Barneys of racial profiling after they said they lawfully purchased expensive items but were detained by police on suspicion of credit card fraud. Trayon Christian said he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Kayla Phillips filed a notice she would sue after she was stopped by detectives while buying a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.

The complaints led to allegations that Barneys as well as other department stores were targeting minorities. The company head met with Al Sharpton, a divisive leader of the African-American community who set himself up as a spokesman on the issue.

In a session Wednesday, the City Council gave 17 major retail stores, including Barneys and Macy’s, until Friday to submit information on how they’ve dealt with shoppers suspected of stealing. City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush), who is African American, called the problem “staggering.”

The city’s human rights commissioner, Patricia Gatling, says the retailers will have to submit two years’ worth of records.

The store’s five-page report says that Barneys did not “request, require nor initiate the actions of the New York Police Department.” The police department has disputed the claims and given differing accounts, saying that officers took action after conferring with Barneys employees.

“In both instances, NYPD officers were conducting unrelated investigations and took action after conferring with Barneys employees while in their security room,” said John McCarthy, the NYPD’s chief spokesman.

The report says police from the grand larceny unit and a precinct’s anti-crime unit would visit the store periodically, and that officers often stopped in the store’s control room, where its security camera feeds are located.

In Christian’s case, officers were in the control room when the transaction occurred, believed it was too fast and could be fraudulent, and went to stop him before he left. In Phillips’ case, officers asked to watch her on camera, and she was stopped outside the store after an officer overheard a statement she made.