Just Make It Illegal to Arrest Blacks: to Honor the Memory of George Floyd, Social Justice Advocates Urge Big Box Retailers to Re-Think Calls to Police Over Shoplifting and “Low-Level” Crimes


by Paul Kersey, DC Clothesline:

In honor of the memory of George Floyd, those peddling social justice reform are advocating nonviolent criminal acts such as shoplifting from big box stores should no longer be a criminal offense. [Retailers urged to re-think police calls for low-level crimes after George Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 12, 2021]:

George Floyd died in police custody after a corner store clerk reported he had used a fake $20 bill, a nonviolent offense so low-level that police don’t usually take people to jail for it.

Now, as the trial over his death continues to unfold, criminal justice reform experts and diversity specialists are hoping the case will prompt retailers — from small businesses to major chains — to reassess how they treat Black and other minority customers and how they can handle loss prevention cases more equitably.

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Retailers, they point out, are on the front lines of racial justice in their own stores.

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“While interactions with the police can be fairly infrequent, everyone shops,” said Cassi Pitt­man Claytor, a sociology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who has studied racial profiling in retail settings. “When [Black people] are asked about the contexts where they are treated unfairly due to their race … shopping in a store ranks above all other settings, including interactions with the police.”

Since Floyd’s death last May, many retailers have made public promises committing to racial equity. Several companies, including Twin Cities-based Target and Best Buy, have shared their plans to diversify hiring and made financial contributions to Black-owned businesses and organizations focused on fighting inequality.

But some criminal justice reform advocates say retailers need to do more to create and enforce policies to address how racial bias negatively impacts customers.

“I don’t think that they really have dealt with and have been honest about dealing with it,” said Jesse Ross, a local diversity and inclusion consultant who has worked with a range of retailers. “It’s ‘Oh we’re going to put out money,’ and ‘Oh, we’re going to give a couple bonuses’ and all of these things, but we are not addressing the very grassroots-level issues that could probably prevent so many other things like a George Floyd from happening.”

Ross, who is Black, said he has been racially profiled in stores, and he doesn’t think many retailers have transparent complaint processes where they evaluate and respond to reports of customer mistreatment.

“Certainly in loss prevention, there are certain behaviors that look sketchy that you are supposed to look out for or pay attention to, but then there’s also that profiling that we know happens,” Ross said.

In response to community outcry following Floyd’s death, the owner of the Cup Foods store said they would no longer contact police in cases of nonviolent crime, as they did for Floyd’s suspected counterfeit bill.

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