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Starbucks CEO apologises for 'reprehensible' arrest of two black men

16 April 2018

A video of the incident, posted on Thursday on Twitter, was viewed millions of times and drew widespread condemnation on social media.

Subsequently, the Philadelphia Police Department says an internal investigation is underway following the arrest of two people at a Starbucks this week.

Additional details are still coming about the incident in which a Starbucks manager called law enforcement officials on two black men who had not placed an order.

The men were accused of trespassing but have said they were waiting for a friend before ordering. Subsequent reports indicate the two men were real estate developers waiting to meet an investor.

- Shaun King (@ShaunKing) April 14, 2018This video of the arrest of 2 black men @Starbucks is insane.

In an nearly seven-minute clip, the commissioner said a trespassing and disturbance matter led to Starbucks employees calling 911.

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"The police did not just happen upon this event - they did not just walk into Starbucks to get a coffee", Ross said in his video.

And while Ross said his officers were following policy, the incident begs the question of if the arresting officers could have de-escalated the situation without removing the men in handcuffs.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the incident "reprehensible" and outlined steps the company would take to "help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again". "Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling", he said.

In his statement, Johnson said of his company's policy: "Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome - the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong".

One witness, identified as Lauren, talked to Philadelphia's WPVI and said the Starbucks manager never asked the men to leave before calling police.

A company spokesman late Saturday would not say whether any employees would face discipline. He explained that a business can kick out a customer at any time for trespassing and the police were right to blindly follow through on Starbucks' request. Yaffe declined to comment.

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When police arrived, two Starbucks employees told them two men had asked to use the restroom but were told they couldn't because they hadn't purchased anything. The men refused, he said.

"I will say that as an African American man, I am very aware of implicit bias", Commissioner Richard Ross said.

"These officers did absolutely nothing wrong. They were professional in all of their dealings with these gentleman and instead they got the opposite back", he said.

He said he "asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to examine the firm's polices and procedures, including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees".

"We are reviewing our policies and will continue to engage with the community and the police department to try to ensure these types of situations never happen in any of our stores". He repeatedly asked an officer "what did they do?".

"I am heartbroken to see Philadelphia in the headlines for an incident that - at least based on what we know at this point - appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018".

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Later that night, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued another apology, saying the company is investigating and will make any necessary changes to their practices. I know Starbucks is reviewing it and we will be too.

Starbucks CEO apologises for 'reprehensible' arrest of two black men