Posted on April 19, 2018

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Apologizes to Two Black Men Who Were Arrested at a Starbucks

Ashley Collman, Daily Mail, April 19, 2018

Philadelphia’s police commissioner is apologizing to two black men who were arrested at a Starbucks in the city.

Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black, apologized to the two men on Thursday after he previously staunchly defended police for their handling of the incident.

‘My sincere apologies to these gentlemen,’ Ross said.

‘I just think that as we work to make this city safer and better we do have to acknowledge that there are still things that we need to work on,’ Ross said. ‘It starts at the top and that starts with me. Messaging is important and I failed miserably in this regard.’

‘I am flawed like many other folks but that is still no excuse,’ he added.

Following last Thursday’s incident, Ross took to Facebook Live and defended his officers, saying they ‘did absolutely nothing wrong’ and that they were professional to the two men,  while getting ‘the opposite back’.

Ross now regrets his words.

‘I should have said the officers acted within the scope of the law, and not that they didn’t do anything wrong,’ Ross said. ‘Words are very important.’

Ross still doesn’t think that his officers acted in a racist manner. As for the Starbucks manager who called 911 in the first place, ‘that’s a different ballgame,’ he said.

He also said he was unaware that you don’t have to buy a drink in order to sit in a Starbucks.

He says the police department did not have a policy for dealing for similar situations, but does now. He says it will be released soon.

Ross added that the arresting officer is mortified about what happened.

The two men who were arrested in the incident, 23-year-olds Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, spoke out about what happened for the first time on Thursday.

Rashon Nelson initially brushed it off when the Starbucks manager told him he couldn’t use the restroom because he wasn’t a paying customer.

He thought nothing of it when he and Robinson, were approached at their table and were asked if they needed help. The 23-year-old entrepreneurs declined, explaining they were just waiting for a business meeting.

A few minutes later, they hardly noticed when the police came into the coffee shop — until officers started walking in their direction.

‘That’s when we knew she called the police on us,’ Nelson told The Associated Press in the first interview by the two black men since video of their trespassing arrests April 12 touched off a furor around the U.S. over racial profiling, or what has been dubbed ‘retail racism’ or ‘shopping while black.’

Nelson and Robinson were led away in handcuffs from the shop in the city’s well-to-do Rittenhouse Square neighborhood in an incident recorded on a white customer’s cellphone.

In the week since, the men have met with Starbucks’ apologetic CEO and have started pushing for lasting change at the coffee-shop chain, including new policies on discrimination and ejecting customers.

‘We do want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody again,’ Robinson said. ‘What if it wasn’t us sitting there? What if it was the kid that didn’t know somebody that knew somebody? Do they make it to jail? Do they die? What happens?’

The manager who called police, Holly Hylton, no longer works for Starbucks.

The chain is closing 8,000 stores for a day next month to re-train staff members.