In a video statement streamed on Facebook Live from the Philadelphia Police Department's page, Commissioner Richard Ross confirmed that on Thursday afternoon at 4:40 p.m., Philadelphia police received a 911 call from the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets alleging disturbance and trespassing.
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 allegedly refused to leave after being asked by Starbucks employees. Ross also said the two men refused to leave after being asked three times by police officers.
So, Ross says, officers arrested the men. The attorney for the two men, Lauren Wimmer, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she received word that the two were being released from custody at 12:30 a.m. Friday, nearly eight hours after the initial 911 call. Ross confirmed that the officers released the men from custody after they discovered Starbucks was not planning to prosecute them.
In his statement, Ross said he believed the officers "did absolutely nothing wrong." He continued:
"[The police officers] followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen and instead, they got the opposite back. I will say that as an African American man, I am very aware of implicit bias. We are committed to fair and unbiased policing and anything less than that will not be tolerated in this department."
Ross said all commanders in his department receive implicit bias training, and all new recruits are sent to both the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. "We want them to know about the atrocities that were, in fact, committed by policing around the world," he says.
A police spokesman told the Inquirer that the Philadelphia Police Department's internal affairs unit is looking into the incident.
In a statement released Saturday, Philadelphia's mayor Jim Kenney criticized Starbucks for its role in the arrests:
"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. For many, Starbucks is not just a place to buy a cup of coffee, but a place to meet up with friends or family members, or to get some work done. Like all retail establishments in our city, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same, no matter the color of their skin."
The mayor's statement says Starbucks' apology, which the company issued on its Twitter account earlier Saturday, was not enough. Kenney also says he has asked the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to look into whether additional implicit bias training should be required of Starbucks employees, and his office has reached out to Starbucks directly to discuss the matter.