Barneys came under fire last week after several reports from customers who say they've been accused of thievery for shopping while black or Latino. Barneys CEO Mark Lee publicly apologized to the two African-American customers who claim they were profiled in the store, while at the same time insisting that this was all the NYPD's fault: “Our preliminary investigation has concluded that in both of these instances, no one from Barneys New York raised any issue with these purchases," he said. "No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities.”
The NYPD immediately contradicted that statement: “In both instances, officers were conducting unrelated investigations and took action based on information brought to their attention by Barneys’ employees while in the security room,” said NYPD spokesman John McCarthy. Last week, he told reporters, “[Barneys] notified the police they had suspicion about this purchase and this particular card. The cops get a complaint from the store. That’s what drives this.”
Lee's statement's came after an hour-long meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem headquarters of his National Action Network. Sharpton had demanded a face-to-face with Barneys officials after Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips both said they were detained while shopping in Barneys. “No one, and I mean no individual, should go through the unacceptable experiences described by Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips,” Lee said. “We offer our deepest sympathies to both of them.”
To be sure, Barneys isn't the only company who has been accused of racial profiling recently: actor Rob Brown, who stars on HBO series Treme, says Macy's in Herald Square unjustly profiled and detained him in June, and now he's suing the company. In a new lawsuit against Macy's, plaintiff Ayla Gursoy, who is Muslim, claims she was detained and arrested while shopping in the Herald Square store on Sept. 18, 2010 (charges were later dropped). She also says that Macy's security guards worked on a quota system of five “arrests” per week, and nonwhite shoppers were identified by an internal “race code system."
The New York State Attorney General's office is now investigating all these allegations of racial profiling at both Barneys and Macy's. There will be a protest against Barneys today at East 61st Street & Madison Avenue at 4:30 p.m.