The Philadelphia Police Department on Friday announced new rules for how its officers should handle disputes between local business owners and people accused of trespassing, weeks after two men were arrested while waiting for an acquaintance at Starbucks.
Under the new policy, officers are being told to attempt to mediate confrontations between businesses or private property owners and individuals accused of trespassing. Officers must instruct the alleged trespasser that they are not allowed to remain on the property and must witness the person refusing to leave before they can be arrested.
"While business owners may exclude persons from their establishments, they cannot misuse the authority of police officers in the process," the new policy says. "Such misuse may lead to a technically lawful arrest, but can create the appearance of improprieties on behalf of the officers and the Department."
The two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested on April 12 after a Starbucks store manager called police, alleging that they had not purchased an item and were trespassing. At the time, critics said that the men were arrested too quickly, and without cause.
City officials, including Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, later apologized for how the incident was handled.
Starbucks publicly apologized for the incident and reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the two men. The coffeehouse chain also required employees at all of its more than 8,000 U.S. store locations to undergo unconscious bias training and overhauled its policies to allow customers to stay in stores without buying an item, so long as they aren’t disruptive, sleeping or using illegal substances.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.