Barneys' internal review of racial profiling claims puts blame on NYPD

Two shoppers who were wrongly accused of credit card fraud say Barneys and the NYPD targeted them because of their race.

Story highlights

  • Two Barneys shoppers say they were racially profiled when accused of credit card fraud
  • Barneys internal review: "Employees did not request ... nor initiate" NYPD actions
  • Upscale retailer has a formal anti-racial-profiling policy, the report notes
  • Attorney for one customer dismisses report as "damage control"
Barneys' internal review of accusations of racial bias toward customers absolves employees of racial profiling and places the blame on the police.
The review states that "Barneys employees did not request, require, nor initiate the actions of the New York Police Department" in stopping and detaining the two African-American customers who were wrongly accused of credit card fraud.
The report by the retailer reviewed two incidents earlier this year -- one involving Kayla Phillips, 21, who was stopped after making a purchase at Barneys, and Trayon Christian, 19, who was detained for questioning after a purchase.
Both shoppers claimed they were targeted by Barney's employees and NYPD officers because of their race.
The report also claims to have found no Barneys policy, written or unwritten, directing employees of the Loss Prevention department to engage in racial profiling and points out the department has a formal policy against racial profiling.
Barneys is not the only major retailer facing accusations of racial profiling.
Jenny Mendez, a former New York Police Department officer who lost her job after a shoplifting, has filed lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages from Macy's.
Mendez was tried and found not guilty of shoplifting. At the trial, a Macy's detective admitted to lying on internal paperwork, saying Mendez admitted guilt when she had not, according to court transcripts. Mendez and her attorney claim she was stopped because she is Hispanic.
Mendez and her mother were shopping at a Macy's store in New York City on November 23, 2012, when she was detained.
Her lawsuit, filed on November 13, 2013, is independent of the class-action lawsuit against Macy's and the NYPD filed by "Treme" actor Rob Brown, said Mendez's attorney, Philip Karasyk. Brown's suit claims he was racially profiled while shopping at a Macy's store in June.
In the Barneys case, Michael Yaki, who serves on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, conducted the review of the high-end retailer's actions and policies after public allegations of racial profiling, according to the retailer.
Michael Bartholomew Palillo, an attorney representing Christian in a civil suit against the department store, disputed the findings and said the report is self-serving.
"I can see how they're trying to do damage control," he said, "but it's not like police officers are just hanging out in stores waiting for people to commit crimes. They're in stores because people call them."
The NYPD did not return requests for comment Wednesday.