(Photo: By Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)
The issue over whether high-end department stores in New York City have wrongly targeted black shoppers - including movie actor Rob Brown - as potential thieves is escalating.
A New York State senator on Monday called on the city's Commission on Human Rights to investigate the allegations as a fourth black shopper stepped forward to claim he had been wrongly stopped by police after shopping.
Meantime, Mark Lee, CEO of Barneys New York , and senior executives from the pricey retailer are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Hazel Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, at the Harlem headquarters of Sharpton's National Action Network, Sharpton's office announced.
That news comes as the fourth black shopper in recent days stepped forward to allege he was profiled. Two of the cases involve Barneys New York and two involve the Macy's flagship store at Herald Square.
Brooklyn resident Art Palmer told CBS that he was stopped by four undercover police officers outside Macy's flagship store in Herald Square back in April after using two credit cards to buy several hundred dollars worth of shirts and ties.
"They ran up on me and pulled out their badge and demanded to see my merchandise," CBS quoted Palmer as saying. "Went through everything, checking receipt against shirt, making sure it matched. I was humiliated."
As Palmer made the allegations, state Sen. Eric Adams, a Democrat from Brooklyn, N.Y., called on the city's Commission on Human Rights to investigate.
As a matter of procedure, parties that have filed lawsuits in cases cannot also ask the commission to investigate. The other three black shoppers who have stepped forward have filed lawsuits, including actor Rob Brown of Finding Forrester and of the HBO series Treme.
Others are welcome to file complaints with the commission by calling 212-306-7450 during normal business hours, said Betsy Herzog, the commission's director of communications.
A representative in the Barneys New York press office did not respond to a telephone message left Monday night. Representatives for Macy's did not respond to an email message Monday night.
An expert who monitors such cases as a representative with the NAACP national office said what is happening in New York is that people are stepping forward more. Such cases take place on a regular basis, based on contact made with NAACP branches, said Niaz Kasravi, criminal justice director for the civil rights organization.
"The NAACP has always said racial profiling training and cultural competency training should be mandatory for not only law enforcement but other people who have the capacity to influence people, such as police officers, security officers or even clerks at stores," Kasravi said.
In the Rob Brown case, in which the actor alleges in a lawsuit filed Friday with state Supreme Court in Manhattan, police allegedly accused the actor of making a "purchase from Macy's with a fraudulent and or unauthorized debit/credit card," the NY Daily News reported.
Brown told the news organization he was "paraded" through Macy's back in June in handcuffs and detained for an hour in a store holding cell before being let go.
Macy's released a statement on that development, saying it was investigating the claims. "We do not comment on matters in litigation," the retailer said in a statement.
In related matters, 21-year-old nursing student Kayla Phillips alleged four plainclothes officers stopped her at a subway station after she purchased a bag from Barneys New York, the Daily News reported.
Trayon Christian, 19, filed a suit claiming police handcuffed him and took him to a precinct after her purchased a belt at Barneys New York.
Barneys has said it is seeking advice from a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.