"These officers did absolutely nothing wrong."
That quote is the reaction of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross after viewing the video of the arrest of two African American men in the wake of a dispute at a Starbucks at 18th and Spruce near Rittenhouse Square. The men were told to leave the Starbucks after a dispute over asking to use the bathroom, even though they had not ordered anything. The manager called police and they were arrested after being asked three times to leave the coffee shop and failing to comply.
The New York Post and other news outlets report that the organizers of last Sunday's protest at Starbucks called for the firing of the stor manager and two cops involved in the arrest. I'll deal with Starbucks later in the column, but I am proud of the cops and how they handled this incident. However, that still might not matter if Ross were not police commissioner.
In the wake of the arrests, Ross took to Facebook Live to talk about how police were called to Starbucks, involved a supervisor, then proceeded to the arrest in a professional manner. He emphasized that officers did not not just happen upon the Starbucks but were called there because of an alleged disturbance and were asked to get the men to leave. I think Ross did a public service by emphasizing that if a business tells you to leave the premises and you refuse, you can be charged with trespassing.
Ross also noted that the officers may have been told that they didn't know what they were doing because they are "only $45,000-a-year employees."
Finally, he said Starbucks might be consistent with its bathroom policy because it has refused to give the bathroom code to a Philadelphia police officer in full uniform because he had not bought anything.
Later, in an interview with 6ABC, Ross was adamant that the cops who went to Starbucks were trying as hard as possible not to arrest anyone, but that they had to enforce the law.
As far as Starbucks, I feel for the two arrested men if they were the subject of a racial double standard. The implicit bias training that Starbucks is going to provide for its employees has become very fashionable, but I think it has been oversold as a remedy. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Starbucks in the future.
One suggestion that I have for Starbucks is that it tone down the virtue signaling that has become a major part of its brand. The company has tried to position itself as the premier socially conscious corporate entity. This incident might prove that it has a good bit of work to do.
A silver lining out of all of this has been the fact that Philly.com has featured a number of independent coffee houses that are alternatives to the chains. My wife and I plan to visit Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books in Germantown, which is owned by professor Marc Lamont Hill, a TV debating partner of mine. This is the free market sorting out issues that people might have with chains like Starbucks. It's a better solution than relying on Mayor Kenney's investigations into the incident.
I think, however, that Starbucks has little to worry about with regards to an ongoing boycott. People who like the latte and the vibe in meeting and working at Starbucks will continue to flock there.
The people I'm concerned with are the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department. We're already hearing from people who say that they need Ross to read them the riot act over their actions. I predict that won't happen, and I predict they will continue to receive wide support from people in Philadelphia area.
I know I will continue to support Ross. I know when the Sixers win a championship and the Eagles repeat as Super Bowl winners, he'll be ready with the best formula known to man to prevent pole climbers.
He gets cops, the city, and the law. I'm happy he is protecting me and my family.