Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross apologized to the two black men arrested for doing nothing other than sitting inside a Starbucks while waiting for an associate to arrive.
“I failed miserably,” he said during a press conference Friday. “I exacerbated the situation with my messaging, it’s as simple as that.”
Ross faced heavy backlash for defending police action used during the confrontation at the Philadelphia Starbucks. He previously said officers did “absolutely nothing wrong” when they approached Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson at the coffee shop over the weekend.
Nelson in an interview with Good Morning Americaon Friday said he was confused when cops entered the Starbucks and sought out him and his pal.
Cell phone video recorded moments later sees officers escorting the men, both 23, out of the shop in handcuffs. The clip went viral and has prompted protests outside the Starbucks location as well as a swfit apology from the coffee chain.
Photos from the protests:
The police commissioner on Friday continued to defend his officers, instead taking the blame upon himself.
“I should have said the officers acted within the scope of the law, and not that they didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “Words are very important.”
Ross said the failure in their handling of the incident lies mostly in the fact that they were unaware of the megachain’s policy, noting they did not know patrons often sit in Starbucks for hours on end.
He said he was previously under the impression that those in the shop are required to buy a drink or product in order to stay.
“It starts with me, it starts with me grossly misunderstanding Starbucks policy and it took me a long time to wrap my head around that,” he said.
“I can appreciate in light of Starbucks policy, and how well-known it is to many, why these two men were appalled when they were asked to leave.”
The manager at the Philadelphia Starbucks location — who no longer works at the store — waited just two minutes before reporting Robinson and Nelson to authorities.
Police asked the men three times to leave, Ross said, and when they refused, they were arrested for trespassing. He said the issue of race was not lost on him, adding “shame on me” for any further bias he perpetuated.
When asked whether the officer response was “typical” he replied: “It’s not about what’s typical, it’s about how things unfold.”
Ross additionally emphasized the officers “never verbally abused these men. They never physically abused these men.”
He also said they’ve already begun to roll out a policy for officers responding to the influx of low-priority reports, like the one made by the Starbucks manager regarding Nelson and Robinson.
The new standards should prevent officers from being manipulated by business, though he said it’s unclear it that’s what occurred in the weekend confrontation.
“I made this situation worse,” Ross concluded. “It’s my sincere apology to the people I’ve failed in a variety of ways in regards to this incident.”
Starbucks is similarly working on changes following the Philadelphia conrontation. The Seattle-based chain on Tuesday announced it would be closing down all its stores for a day next month so to offer staffers “racial-bias education” classes.