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Starbucks apologized Saturday after an employee reportedly asked six officers to leave one of the company's stores in a Phoenix suburb because a customer reported feeling unsafe.
In a letter addressed to the Tempe Police Department, the executive vice president of Starbucks apologized on behalf of the company "for any misunderstanding or inappropriate behavior that may have taken place" during the July 4 encounter.
"When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees)," Rossann Williams said. "Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable."
Williams said no customer should have the experience the officers had, and that Starbucks is taking the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
The Tempe Officers Association said the officers had bought their drinks and were standing together before their shift started when a barista asked them to move out of the customer’s line of sight or leave. The barista knew one of the officers by name because he's a regular customer, according to the association.
"This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening," the association said in a statement. "While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive. Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019."
Williams said Sunday that she had spoken to the police chief and was en route to Tempe to meet with her and employees at Starbucks.
"At Starbucks, we have deep appreciation for your department and the officers who serve the Tempe community," Williams said in a statement. "Our partners rely on your service and welcome your presence, which keeps our stores and the community a safe and welcoming place."
The incident ignited debate on social media and sparked the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.
In May 2018, Starbucks closed 8,000 locations across the country for an afternoon of anti-bias training after one of its managers at a Philadelphia store called police on two black men, prompting outrage on social media.