Skip to Content

Starbucks has a Racism Problem, but the Police, both Racist and Authoritarian, are Worse

Shut up or you’re under arrest

Cops clearly need to be able to prevent crime and capture criminals, but the problem is that our politicians have over recent decades created so many new crimes and put so many laws on the books relating to those new crimes at the federal, state and local level, that police can now arrest anyone for virtually anything. Cops are also being trained to always maintain their control and authority in every situation, instead of behaving as public servants and trying to de-escalate disputes (as police in most European countries do). As John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute says, most people these days are committing potentially arrestable offenses every day without even being aware of it. Adding all these new crimes to the books doesn’t make us any safer, but the existence of all these new crimes gives police a license to arrest virtually anyone they want anytime, and if they are wrong in doing so, to avoid facing any kind of sanction for making those arrests.

Look at the cops in this Philadelphia Starbucks incident case. The chief was quick to say that this outrage involved no police impropriety. The police did nothing wrong, Chief Ross said. And it will be surprising if any of those officers involved are punished or even sanctioned administratively for dragging two innocent young men waiting for a business meeting off to the clink for eight long and frightening hours.(They may, however, win significant compensation if they sue the city for false arrest. As my colleague Linn Washington has written here, Philly pays out millions of dollars each year for the misbehavior of its police officers making such arrests.)

The crime in this case was not the allegedly “defiant” behavior of the two men who were arrested for doing nothing wrong. It was the arresting of those men by uniformed enforcers working for the government who automatically sided with the manager claiming to have been harmed by those two men’s behavior.

The police officers’ behavior in this case was all the more inexcuseable when Andrew Yaffee, the real estate developer, a white guy whom the two men had said they were waiting for, finally arrived at the scene, proving that they had been truthful in saying they were waiting for a business meeting, Instead of acknowledging their error at that point, the cops continued cuffing the men and hauling they off, even as the developer was angrily demanding to know what the men he was meeting had done and why they were being busted.

Asked by an arresting officer if he was “with these two gentlemen,” Yaffee responded affirmatively, calling their arrest “ridiculous.” Asking why the cops had even been called in, he said, “Was it because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”

At that point, what the police should have done is apologized, but that is not something police in America do these days. In America today, police are trained to demand respect, and to punish those who don’t show what they consider to be that respect. By then however the arrests were all about the alleged “defiance,” not the underlying “crime,” which clearly never existed in the first place.

story | by Dr. Radut