Bill of Rights to Protect Black Shoppers from Racial Profiling at Luxury Retail Stores

Caitlin Noland and Ginger Adams Otis, NY Daily News, December 9, 2013

Six weeks after the Daily News reported on a series of racial-profiling allegations from black shoppers, a coalition of high-end retailers and civil rights leaders came up with a “bill of rights” to protect customers from “shop-and-frisk” practices.

The list was released to the media after getting final approval Monday morning at a meeting that included the Rev. Al Sharpton and executives from Barneys, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and other department stores.

Sharpton hailed the “best practices” agreement—the first of its kind between community leaders and the retail industry—as a step in the right direction.

But the issue won’t be fully resolved until the coalition gets the NYPD to participate, he said.

“We cannot have an agreement with the NYPD without the incoming commissioner saying, ‘We agree to that,’ “ said Sharpton, who has reached out to newly appointed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton for a sitdown.

Bratton didn’t respond to calls for comment Monday, but a spokeswoman for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said 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.

The bill of rights says that store employees who racially profile customers can be disciplined and possibly even fired.

Vulgar language or excessive force while detaining suspects are prohibited. Employees are required to “respect the basic civil and legal rights of any person suspected” of a crime, the list says.

Stores will be subject to internal tests to make sure they are in compliance—and the regulations must be applied nationwide, not just in department stores in New York City.

Rules must be “highly visible,” said Kirsten John Foy, head of Brooklyn’s National Action Network chapter.

“We left it to each store to figure out their specifics for posting, but it must be posted in common areas, available upon request and clearly placed on store websites,” he said.

Retailers have a week to get the information online and in stores—and some have even pledged to run ads publicizing the bill of rights to customers, said Foy.

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Customers’ Bill of Rights

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