The Philadelphia Police Department instituted a new policy on responding to calls about trespassing on private business property nearly two months after the controversial arrest of two black men at a local Starbucks.
The new policy advises officers to first attempt to de-escalate and mediate the situation between the property owner or authorized person and the offender before arresting anyone.
If de-escalation and mediation fail, then the officer must ensure that the offender understands that he or she is not allowed to be on the property before making an arrest. The officer must also witness the property owner or authorized person ask the person to leave and the individual’s refusal.
Officers may decline to arrest someone if they determine that the property owner or authorized person is “attempting to misuse the enforcement powers of the police,” says a department memo on the new policy.
“Department leadership recognized a need for a policy that would better guide officers when called to investigate and enforce defiant trespass complaints,” a June 8 press release from the police department reads.
The department is reviewing its implicit bias training, the press release states.
In April, Philadelphia officers arrested two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks. A store employee had called 911, saying the men did not order anything and refused to leave. Videos of the episode circulated on social media and led to outrage and accusations of racial bias.
Nelson and Robinson were later released, and the city declined to prosecute them.
An internal investigation into the arresting officers’ actions concluded that the officers followed the law and did not violate the police department’s existing policies by arresting the men, according to the press release.
Starbucks apologized for the incident and reached a settlement with Nelson and Robinson. The coffee chain closed all company-owned locations in the U.S. for several hours on May 29 for employee racial bias training.