Starbucks outlets in Tempe, Az. plan to host a series of “Coffee with a Cop” events in an effort to mend bruised feelings following a July 4th incident that added more fuel to the nationwide debate over police-community relations.
Last Thursday, a customer in one of the city’s Starbucks outlets reported feeling “uncomfortable” after six local officers entered the restaurant before their holiday shift. The citizen asked a barista to tell the officers to “either move out of the customer’s sight, or leave.”
The officers complied, but the incident immediately went viral, and provoked a complaint from the Tempe Officers Association which called the request “offensive.”
Starbucks issued an official apology, labeling it an “isolated incident,” and Starbucks executive Rossann Williams pledged, following a meeting with officers, that police will be treated with “dignity and the utmost respect.”
Starbucks said its “Coffee with a Cop” events were intended to “bring residents and police together to discuss relevant issues and find common ground,” azcentral reports.
That appears to have smoothed police feelings, at least for now.
Rob Ferraro, the Tempe Police Union’s president, said in a written statement, “While this situation may have started steeped in negativity, we remain determined to turn it into a positive moment for one and all.”
He said he hoped the partnership with Starbucks in events like “Coffee with a Cop” will ensure similar events won’t be repeated.
Even though this is a step in the right direction, and Starbucks has been praised for handling this quickly, some online commentators are still not convinced that these events will bridge the gap.
They point to similar earlier misstep from the coffee giant.
In April, 2018, a Starbucks barista called police to their Philadelphia outlet after two African American men took seats without appearing to order anything.
Chief executive Kevin Johnson issued an apology and closed 8,000 stores for training in “unconscious bias.”
Starbucks so far has no plans to “shut their stores down for the day in order to train their employees to better respect police,” Townhall reports.