Philadelphia police chief defends officers who arrested black men at Starbucks

The CEO of Starbucks apologized, the mayor of Philadelphia was "heartbroken" and the city police commissioner defended officers who handcuffed and arrested two black men who asked to use a restroom in the coffee shop. 

A cellphone video recorded the arrests, including a white man who was meeting the handcuffed men at the Center City shop, repeatedly asking officers "What did they do?" as the men were being handcuffed and taken away.

The video was posted Thursday and went viral over the weekend, drawing millions of views.

CEO Kevin Johnson said the video shot by customers was "hard to watch." He apologized for the "disheartening situation in one of our Philadelphia-area stores this past Thursday, that led to a reprehensible outcome."

Johnson said police never should have been called and that the company was immediately beginning a review of its policies. 

Mayor Jim Kenney said the coffee giant's apology was not enough and that the city Commission on Human Relations will examine the firm’s policies and bias training provided its employees.

“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," Kenney said in a statement.

The Philadelphia Inquirer identified the white man as real estate developer Andrew Yaffe.

“What did they get called for, because there were two black guys sitting here to meet me," Yaffe says on the video. "What did they do? What did they do?"

A woman can be heard saying, "they didn't do anything, I saw the entire thing."

Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black, said police received a 911 call from the Starbucks saying the men were trespassing. He said officers were told that the men had walked in and asked to use the restroom but did not buy anything. The employee denied their request, citing company policy.

Ross said officers asked the men to leave multiple times before the arrests. The men were later released when Starbucks declined to prosecute.

“As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,” Ross said. But he said the men "did nothing wrong."

"“If a business calls and they say that ‘someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business,' police have a legal obligation to carry out their duties.”

Ross said he doesn’t patronize Starbucks but recalled an incident from a few years ago in which a uniformed sergeant was denied access to a Starbucks bathroom “so they are at least consistent in their policy.”
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