Macy’s department stores will pay New York State $600,000 to settle a complaint that its New York outlets engaged in racial profiling and the unlawful handcuffing of customers detained on suspicion of shoplifting, says the New York Times. In the settlement, the result of an investigation by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Macy’s will change its security practices. Macy’s uses a private policing system in which people suspected of shoplifting may be detained, questioned, and privately fined. Spitzer found that most of people detained at a sampling of Macy’s stores were black and Latino, a disproportionately high number when compared with the percentage of blacks and Latino shoppers.
The investigation also found that the store’s practice of handcuffing detainees was unlawful. Some stores handcuffed all suspects, regardless of age, size, or behavior. “This should set an important example for other retailers,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Dozens of security officers patrol Macy’s main store at New York’s Herald Square, where people suspected of shoplifting are fingerprinted and detained, often behind metal bars in a holding cell. The operation involves German shepherds, hundreds of cameras and a closed-circuit television center.