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Macy's, Barneys probed after racial profiling claims: report

A Macy's store is seen in Schaumburg, Illinois near Chicago, September 23, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Jim Young
A Macy's store is seen in Schaumburg, Illinois near Chicago, September 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

(Reuters) - The New York state attorney general is investigating Macy's Inc and Barneys New York Inc after complaints from black customers who were stopped by police after making luxury purchases, the New York Daily News reported on Tuesday.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has set Friday as the deadline for the stores to turn over information about their policies for detaining and questioning customers based on race, according to the Daily News, which quoted letters sent to Barneys Chief Executive Mark Lee and Macy's Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse.

Lee is meeting on Tuesday with Reverend Al Sharpton at the Harlem headquarters of his civil rights group, National Action Network, to discuss claims of racial profiling by two Barneys customers.

"Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law," Kristen Clarke, who heads the attorney general's civil rights bureau, wrote to Lee and Sachse.

"The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal," the letters said.

Schneiderman's office, Macy's and Barneys were not immediately available for comment.

Barneys and the New York City Police Department were named in a lawsuit filed by a Queens man detained by police in April for two hours after buying a $349 Ferragamo belt, and then released without being charged. Another Barneys shopper said she was surrounded by four undercover police officers in February after leaving with a $2,500 Celine handbag she had purchased.

Two Macy's shoppers have made similar complaints, including actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme," who said he was handcuffed and held for an hour after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother, the Daily News said.

The fourth "shop and frisk" complaint was filed by Art Palmer, 56, an exercise trainer from Brooklyn. He said he was surrounded by police who demanded to see identification in April after he used his credit card to buy $320 worth of Polo shirts and ties, the Daily News reported.

In 2005, Macy's paid $600,000 to settle similar allegations that many of the chain's New York stores had targeted blacks and Latinos for particular scrutiny of theft, according to the New York Attorney General's office.

Grand larceny has risen 31.6 percent over the past two years in the New York Police Department's Midtown North precinct, which includes Macy's flagship store in Herald Square. It is up nearly 4 percent in the Upper East Side's 19th precinct, which includes Barneys New York.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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