The Philadelphia Police Department has issued a new policy prompted by the controversial arrests of two black men at a Center City Starbucks in April.
The police department says the new “Defiant Trespass” policy will better guide officers when called to investigate and enforce defiant trespass complaints.
“The department is committed to addressing any concerns about racial bias in the department’s policies and practices. After examining various aspects of the incident that took place at Starbucks coffee shop in Center City on April 12, 2018, department leadership recognized a need for a policy that would better guide officers when called to investigate and enforce defiant trespass complaints,” the department said in press release on Friday.
Under the policy, a person can face the charge of “Defiant Trespass” if, while knowing he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, the person enters or remains in any place where notice against trespassing has been given by:
- Being told to leave.
- Postings that are legal and would likely come to his or her attention.
- Fencing or other enclosures designed to exclude intruders.
- Postings at each entrance on a school ground that say unauthorized visitors are prohibited.
- Being told to leave a school or its grounds by a program official, employee or police officer.
Officers have also been provided with guidance on how to respond to calls related to trespassing on private business property that is open to the public. Police say this will allow police officers, with direction from their supervisors, to use greater discretion in taking actions that are most appropriate for each individual case.
The policy states officers are expected to de-escalate and mediate the disturbance between the owner and the offender before an arrest is made. Depending on the circumstances, police say the charges can range from a summary to a misdemeanor.
The department says they have taken steps to turn the Starbucks incident into a positive learning experience.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and will continue to do so as we explore and implement new practices that reflect the importance of diversity, public safety and accountability,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called the policy a “positive step.”
“I’m pleased that the Philadelphia Police Department thoroughly reviewed its internal policies and created clearer guidance for police officers responding to calls related to trespassing on private business property that is open to the public. The new policy will allow police officers to use greater discretion in taking actions that are most appropriate for each individual case,” said Kenney. “This can lead to fewer arrests, and, most importantly, will ensure that our officers are not placed in untenable situations at the behest of retailers.”