Philadelphia police commissioner apologizes to men arrested at Starbucks

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has apologized for defending the officers who arrested two black men waiting in a Starbucks, saying he “failed miserably” in his response.

Ross, who is black, said the issue of race surrounding the controversial arrest of the two men was not lost on him, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

“I fully acknowledge that I played a significant role in making [it] worse," Ross said at a press conference.


Ross originally said that the arresting officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.” On Thursday, he said he should have chosen his words more carefully to say the officers "acted within the scope of the law.”

Ross had also said the officers were professional in their dealings with the men, “and instead they got the opposite back.”

The men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested last week while waiting inside a Starbucks for a business associate.

A manager called the police when the men refused to “make a purchase or leave.” The company announced on Monday that the manager left the job.

The two spoke out for the first time on Thursday, with Nelson telling the AP that he feared for his life when police showed up. 

Starbucks has promised to close company-owned stores for a day to train employees on racial bias. 

Ross also acknowledged that a lack of awareness with the Starbucks business model contributed to his own response, and said he has since learned the company normally allows people to spend lengthy amounts of time on the premises. 

Ross said his department will implement a new policy to address similar situations that will be released soon, according to the AP. 

Updated at 12:56 p.m.