New York retailers, police trade blame on 'shop and frisk'

Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:59pm EDT
 
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By Chris Francescani and Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York police and retailers Macy's Inc and Barneys New York Inc traded blame on Tuesday over complaints by black customers who were stopped by police after making luxury purchases, in a case that has roiled civil rights leaders.

The state's attorney general launched an investigation into security practices at the two department stores after four customers complained they were unfairly targeted in a series of cases the city's feisty tabloids have nicknamed "shop and frisk," a play on a controversial policing tactic.

Barneys and Macy's officials said that police acted on their own, without input from store staff in choosing to stop shoppers who included a black actor with a role on a HBO series.

Following a meeting in Harlem with New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton, Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee likewise said his employees had no part in two incidents at his stores.

"We believe that no Barneys employees were involved in those incidents," Lee said. "No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities."

Likewise, a Macy's spokeswoman denied that store staff had any role in two incidents at the company's Herald Square flagship. In one of those incidents, actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme" in June was paraded through the store in handcuffs after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother, according to the Daily News.

"This was an operation of the New York City Police Department," Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in a statement.

NYPD chief spokesman John McCarthy countered those claims, saying that in both Barneys' incidents and the case involving Brown at Macy's, officers were acting on information provided by store security.   Continued...

 
Barneys New York Chief Executive Mark Lee speaks to the media next to Reverend Al Sharpton (2nd R) during a news conference in New York October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz