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Barneys New York says it will immediately start monitoring New York Police Department officers as they monitor shoppers in its flagship Manhattan store. The move comes after black customers alleged they were racially profiled when they were stopped by police after making luxury purchases.
An internal Barneys memo sent to store security staff Tuesday said the department store would start keeping a log of police officers who use its security room. The memo said Barneys will maintain video and audio surveillance of the room where security staff and police watch monitors set up around the store.
The memo adds that any officer using the room shall provide "a reasonable description of the individual or individuals that they wish to place under surveillance and the reason the police wish to place such individuals under surveillance."
The directive comes after two black shoppers said they were racially profiled at Barneys earlier this year.
Trayon Christian, 19, sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Christian said he was racially profiled and detained. The college student said he used an approved debit card to buy the belt on April 29, but that Barneys employees specifically targeted him and called the NYPD. According to a lawsuit against the NYPD, Christian was released with an apology after the police found the debit card he used was authentic.
In a similar case, Kayla Phillips filed a notice saying she would sue after she was stopped by detectives outside the store when she bought a $2,500 Celine handbag in February. Phillips, 21, said four plainclothes officers pinned her against the wall at a subway station after she left Barneys and demanded to see the card she used to make the purchase. Phillips, accused of credit card fraud, said she used her tax return money to buy the pricey bag.
The racial profile claims have put the spotlight on music mogul Jay-Z, who has a new clothing line deal with Barneys. Protesters demanded the hip-hop artist pull out of the holiday collection deal. Though Jay-Z refused, he promised to play an active role confronting racial profiling concerns. The “Shawn Carter Collection” launched on Nov. 20.
In a review commissioned by Barneys and released last week, an attorney found that the luxury store does not have a written or unwritten policy to profile customers based on race and did not initiate any police action against the two customers. The NYPD, according Barneys, were responsible for investigating those customers, not store employees.
The NYPD has said that in both cases it took action against the shoppers after conferring with Barneys employees. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said officers don't just hang out at department stores but are there investigating crimes.
The NYPD did not respond to requests from Al Jazeera for comment.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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