By  on November 24, 2013

NEW YORK — Several dozen retailers, city officials and civilrights leaders convened at The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church hereFriday morning to start a dialogue about racial profiling and lossprevention at stores.

Among the retailers that sentrepresentatives were Barneys New York, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord& Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Gap Inc.

Rev.Al Sharpton; Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough president; Marc H.Morial, chief executive officer of the National Urban League; AlphonsoDavid, deputy secretary for civil rights for Governor Andrew Cuomo;Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil LibertiesUnion; Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference,and Kirsten John Foy, president of the Brooklyn chapter of the NationalAction Network, also participated in the forum.

Organized by theRetail Council of New York State and the New York Metropolitan RetailingAssociation, the meeting was a result of recent allegations of racialprofiling against Macy’s and Barneys. These “shop and frisk” incidentshave led to an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric T.Schneiderman, and lawsuits filed against Macy’s, Barneys, the city andthe New York Police Department.

Mark Lee, ceo of Barneys,attended the meeting with Marc Perlowitz, general counsel; Tony Mauro,executive vice president, store operations, and Charlotte Blechman,executive vice president, marketing and communications. The Macy’s teamconsisted of John Harper, president of stores; Edward Jay Goldberg,senior vice president of government and consumer affairs; BillHawthorne, senior vice president of diversity strategies and legalaffairs, and two other public affairs executives. Two vice presidents ofloss prevention attended from Neiman Marcus Group, and two senior vicepresidents from Hudson’s Bay Co., representing Saks and Lord &Taylor, one over stores and the other over asset protection andoperations, attended.

According to a statement from Macy’s, “Wewere very happy to have had a seat and voice at today’s meeting. It wasan important step in openly and honestly discussing loss prevention inthe industry and policies for retail establishments, large and small.The forum accomplished its goal of bringing together many key players inthe retail community to the table, and starting a healthy dialogue withcommunity leaders.

“We commend the leadership role by the RetailCouncil of New York State and the New York Metropolitan RetailingAssociation in steering the discussions to move forward and emergecollectively with agreed-upon actionable plans. Macy’s looks forward tobeing an active participant in the ongoing discussions so that wemutually identify and adopt best practices for the industry whilemaintaining a pleasant shopping experience for all customers,” accordingto Macy’s.

National Action Network’s Foy termed the meeting, which was closed to the press, “productive, honest and candid.”

“It’sjust the start of a dialogue, and we’re forming a task force which willbe charged with working on industry-wide policies and standards,” saidFoy. The task force is set to have its first meeting on Monday. “Thereare things retailers can do to further engage the communities of color,which their customer base is about,” he said. He noted that there wereabout a dozen retailers in attendance and “everyone acknowledged thereare issues that have to be dealt with, sooner, rather than later.”

TheNYCLU’s Lieberman added: “It was good to have the retailers and civilrights leaders sitting around the table together with a sharedcommitment to figure out how to really put an end to racial profiling.There’s hard work to do. The missing link is the New York PoliceDepartment. They’re missing in action.” She added that the task forcewill set its agenda and start to move forward, but she is concernedabout how forthcoming the retailers will be about their relationshipwith the NYPD.

“This is an important time for business in ourcity,” said Stringer upon arrival at the meeting. “We want people of allbackgrounds to come into our retail stores and have a very positiveexperience. This [the meeting] is not about a dog and pony show. It’sabout creating a real dialogue.”

Sanford Moore, a communityactivist, said, during the meeting they decided to create variouscommittees such as those for community reinvestment and economicdevelopment; improving protocols for racial profiling, and securitytraining. He questioned during the meeting why pension funds purchaseshares in companies that are inhospitable to black citizens. “ScottStringer said he wanted to explore that,” said Moore.

“I mustcommend Rev. Sharpton. He’s trying to take a constructive yet criticalapproach. If they don’t do the right thing, he may take anotherapproach. I think something positive will come out of it,” said Moore.

RELATED STORY: Barneys' Attorney Finds No Wrongdoing >>

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