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Starbucks has apologized to police in Arizona after six officers said they were asked to leave one of the coffee chain’s stores last week because another customer said the officers made them feel unsafe.
The incident was brought to light by the Tempe Officers Association, and soon the hashtag #DumpStarbucks started trending on Twitter. But even as some people online voiced concerns about the perceived hostility to law enforcement, others said the encounter highlighted distrust of police in a city where an officer’s fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy earlier this year has sparked criticism of police’s use of force.
The apology comes more than a year after Starbucks temporarily closed 8,000-plus U.S. stores for what it called “racial bias education” training, spurred by outcry after a store manager in Philadelphia called police on two African American customers just minutes after they arrived for a meeting. Now, the company is accused of creating a different sort of unwelcoming environment.
The way the six officers were treated in the July 4 incident was “completely unacceptable,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks’s executive vice president and president of U.S. retail, said Saturday in a statement posted to Twitter.
“What occurred in our store on July 4 is never the experience your officers or any customer should have, and at Starbucks, we are already taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future,” Williams wrote.
According to the association, the officers were standing with their coffees before their shift when a barista told them their presence was making a customer feel unsafe. The barista – who knew one of the officers, a regular customer, by name – requested that they “move out of the customer’s line of sight or to leave,” the association said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday.
“Disappointed, the officers did in fact leave,” the group wrote, adding, “While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive. Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019.”
The Tempe Police Department officers had congregated around the spot where coffee is handed out, Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told The Washington Post on Sunday. Borges said he thought the barista believed the officers could just reposition.
Borges added that “the barista attempted to make the best of a challenging situation,” saying the customer approached the barista multiple times with anxiousness about the police presence. Borges said the barista responded that the officers were regular customers and that the police were not here because they had been called.
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