PHILADELPHIA — In a statement released today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania condemned the actions of the Starbucks employee and the Philadelphia police officers that resulted in the arrest of two African-American men on Thursday who were waiting to meet a business acquaintance, then held for hours before being released without charge. The incident, which occurred at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, went viral, thanks to video of the arrest that was captured by a bystander.
In its statement, the ACLU of Pennsylvania noted that Police District 9 (Center City west) and the Police Service Area in which this happened have the highest racial disparities in pedestrian stops in the entire city. The ACLU’s most recent report on stop-and-frisk from 2017 shows that 67 percent of stops in the police service area where the store is located are of African-Americans. Meanwhile, Black residents account for just three percent of the area’s population. In its statement, the ACLU of Pennsylvania called on District Captain Danielle Vales and Lieutenant Jeffrey Rabinovitch, PPD’s leaders in District 9, to correct these disparities and end racial profiling incidents like the one on Thursday.
The city has collected the data on stops and frisks annually as a result of a 2011 consent decree agreed to after the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed suit against the Philadelphia Police Department for racial profiling. More information about that case is available at aclupa.org/bailey.
The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“Black Philadelphians face daily indignities when they are simply trying to go about their business. This incident shows that Black people can’t even ‘wait while Black.’
“Starbucks failed these men and all of its customers by treating them in this unfair and demeaning way. Based on all eyewitness accounts, there was no need for police intervention. These men were terribly disrespected by Starbucks employees.
“Commissioner Ross, Captain Vales, and Lieutenant Rabinovitch also have failed the people of Philadelphia by allowing this district to continuously, year after year, have the highest rates of racial disparities in stops. Are Black people not welcome in this neighborhood? That’s the message that is sent by police officers who repeatedly stop African-Americans there without cause.
“For seven years, the city has tracked the data on racial disparities in stops and frisks by the police. Despite the fact that these disparities remain, it seems that there is no price to pay for officers who continue to mistreat Black Philadelphians.
“If Commissioner Ross sincerely believes his officers did nothing wrong, merely followed policies and procedures, then those policies and procedures need to be changed. There was no need for this incident to end with these two men in handcuffs. And it wouldn’t have, if Commissioner Ross and the leadership of District 9 were serious about ending the mistreatment of Black people in that neighborhood and all over Philadelphia.
“Starbucks may be able to decide who sits in its store, but only the police could decide to arrest these men.”