It’s Barney’s vs. the NYPD in Racial Profiling Scandal

“Blame the cops” was our basic summary of Barney’s New York‘s damage control response to two lawsuits filed by black shoppers who were approached and, in one case, arrested after buying expensive items at the store.

The company appears to be doubling down on that strategy: yesterday CEO Mike Lee met with Rev. Al Sharpton, apologized to the affected parties (Jay-Z included) and said:

“Our preliminary investigation has concluded that in both of these instances no one from Barneys New York raised any issue with these purchases. No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities.”

Could you hear him spinning as you read that statement? From The New York Times today:

Security personnel said they were encouraged to “take chances” in stopping suspicious customers, even if it meant intercepting innocent people. Bad grabs, they said they were told, were part of the business. The number of contacts with the Police Department, made when security workers suspected a person had been shoplifting or engaging in credit card fraud, soon jumped drastically.

Yes, the cops were undercover—but unless they were standing behind the counters looking over each employee’s shoulder, it’s a little difficult to believe that they acted entirely on their own. In fact, the NYPD’s spokesman already released a contradictory statement:

“N.Y.P.D. officers were conducting unrelated investigations and took action based on information brought to their attention by Barneys employees while in the security room.”

When asked directly if he was blaming the department yesterday, Lee said “I can only speak to what we know from the preliminary investigation”, which sounds like “Please don’t make me answer this question.”

So that’s their story and they’re sticking to it, for better or (almost certainly) worse. Also: if we were cops, we wouldn’t be too happy to work the Barney’s beat in the future.