Last February, Kayla Phillips (pictured) had her eye on a $2,500 Céline bag, and when she saw it at the posh retailer Barneys New York, she purchased it using her debit card. When she exited the Madison Avenue store and walked three blocks away towards a subway station, why, oh why, did four police officers swarm the young woman, then reportedly roughhoused her, as if she had committed a crime? A classic case of shopping while black?
According to New York Daily News, Phillips, pined for the popular suede handbag in a bright orange color, but had not found one until she stumbled upon it at Barneys. Since the 21-year-old student had just gotten her tax return money, she thought she’d splurge by purchasing the bag. Phillips used her debit card to buy the bag and the transaction was a breeze sans confrontation from anyone.
When the young woman made it down the stairs en route to the subway, she alleges that four plainclothes officers suddenly swarmed her, three men and a woman, all accusing her of fraud. Phillips claims that two of the officers pushed her against a wall and the other two blocked her from entering the turnstile. The officer’s ruffian tactics puzzled her because she had purchased the bag and had a receipt to prove it. The officers, according to Phillips, asked rapid-fire questions about her purchase, demanding identification and the debit card used, all of which she produced.
The third-degree interrogation of Phillips taken to the tenth power, continued, and Phillips claims that the officers even asked her what was she doing in Manhattan! They also allegedly wanted to know how could Phillips afford such an expensive bag and why was her debit card nameless. The young woman explained to authorities that her card had not been activated and even showed them a letter from Bank of America stating she hadn’t activated her card yet.
Unfortunately for Phillips, she was carrying a pricey Chanel bag at the time of the incident and having this also opened up another can of worms for her.
At one point, one of the officers even bent her card incessantly, and when she questioned as to why she had been accosted in such a way, he allegedly responded, “If you were a victim of identity theft, if someone was trying to use your hard-earned money, wouldn’t you want us to investigate?”
Phillips, who is pregnant with her second child and whose brother is also one of New York’s finest, asked the officers for their names and badge numbers. She has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the New York City police department. Phillips’ attorney, Kareem Vessup, told the New York Daily News an additional civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys is pending.
The Phillips case is eerily similar to the racial profiling incident involving Barneys and 19-year-old Trayon Christian. The youth purchased a $350 Ferragamo belt from the costly clothier last April, and he too was allegedly followed by NYPD, arrested and accused of fraud. Christian filed a lawsuit this week against Barneys and the NYPD.
What does Barneys have to say about the racial profiling allegations? The retailer posted a response on its Facebook page:
The following statement can be attributed to a Barneys New York spokesperson:
“Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”
Can anyone say…”BOYCOTT!”