A corporate spokesperson for Starbucks issued a full apology Sunday after news of an incident in one of the coffee chain’s Arizona outlets went viral.
On Saturday, The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow reported that a barista at a Starbucks in Tempe, Arizona, asked several police officers, who get coffee at the shop regularly, to move out of a customer’s line of sight or leave the premesis, claiming that the mere presence of several law enforcement officials made the customer “not feel safe.”
On Twitter, the Tempe Officers Association — a police union — wrote about the incident on Friday and included a mock image of the Starbucks logo that showed a hand pouring out a cup of coffee with the words “Dump Starbucks” circling the image.
“Don’t appreciate @Starbucks asking our #Tempe cops to leave your establishment on the #4thofjuly2019. Several of those cops are #veterans who fought for this country! #ZeroRespect,” the union wrote.
A second statement, posted to the Tempe Offices Assocation’s Facebook page, fleshed out the incident, adding that, “[t]he barista said that a customer ‘did not feel safe’ because of the police presence. The barista asked the officers to move out of the customer’s line of sight or to leave.”
“Disappointed,” the union added, “the officers did in fact leave.”
The Tempe Police Department later said, in a statement from their public relations department, that they’d reached out to Starbucks’s corporate office and that Starbucks was aware of the incident. On Sunday, according to NPR, a representative from the Tempe Police Department met with members of Starbucks’ leadership team and the company issued an official apology.
Dear Chief Moir and the entire Tempe Police Department,
Thank you, Chief Moir, for the conversation today. On behalf of Starbucks, I want to sincerely apologize to you all for the experience that six of your officers had in our store on July 4.
When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees). Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable.
At Starbucks, we have deep appreciation for your department and the officers who serve the Tempe community. Our partners rely on your service and welcome your presence, which keeps our stores and the community a safe and welcoming place.
Our strong relationship with the Tempe Police Department has provided us the opportunity to host several “Coffee with a Cop” events in area stores, which bring residents and police together to discuss relevant issues and find common ground. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with you, and we agree that the experience of your officers requires an important dialogue – one that we are committed to being part of.
What occurred in our store on July 4 is never the experience your officers or any customer should have, and at Starbucks, we are already taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.
I will be in Tempe this evening and welcome the opportunity to meet with any of you in person to address concerns or questions.
The letter is signed by Rossann Williams, who is the vice president of Starbucks’ U.S. retail operations.
NPR and other media outlets speculate that the issue between the cops and the customer stems from an incident that took place in Maricopa County, Arizona (which, NPR notes, includes Tempe), where an officer shot a 14-year-old black boy whom the officer said had been looting vehicles parked in a public parking lot. The officer involved in that shooting alleged that the boy had recovered a weapon from one of the cars and pointed it at him; an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Regardless, Starbucks is now facing a nationwide backlash and possible boycott — and the apology may not be enough. After a group of black males was asked to leave a Seattle Starbucks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, because the manager on duty believed they were loitering, Starbucks shut down all of its U.S. retail outlets for a hours-long “sensitivity training” on the subject of race relations.
It does not appear Starbucks is particularly interested in extending the same courtesy to police officers.