Starbucks Arrests May Have Been Driven By Racial Bias, Philadelphia Police Review Finds

The police commissioner of Philadelphia is taking issue with parts of a review by the police advisory commission after the high-profile arrest of two black men at a Center City Starbucks coffee house.

The review released Monday says racial bias among police officers may have played a role in the arrests earlier this year.

“This report seeks to highlight the idea that while these arrests may have been legal and within policy, they may not have occurred if not for the complicated issues of race and racism which are prevalent in this country and this city," Hans Menos, executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, said in a statement.

"This report also seeks to ensure that tangible solutions can be offered."

But Police Commissioner Richard Ross disputed the report's contention that "racism has a profound effect on what drives citizen and police contact."

He said "criminal conduct and victimization" drives such contact but acknowledges that biases "may distort the fears and perceptions" of some people who call police.

The report outlined recommendations to address potential racial bias within the Philadelphia Police Department, including training, changing department structure and increasing communication. 

Changes have already taken place in the Philadelphia Police Department, which announced in June a new policy on how to confront people accused of trespassing on private property.

Officers are now instructed to first attempt to de-escalate and mediate disturbances between property owners and accused offenders. Before an officer arrests someone, that person must understand he or she is not allowed on the property. The officer also must witness the person refusing to leave.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested within minutes of their arrival at the Starbucks in April. No charges were filed, but video of their arrest prompted a national outcry and policy changes at the chain.

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