A barista asked them to leave after customers complained the officers made them uncomfortable.
Starbucks was back at the center of controversy once again when, on the Fourth of July, a store in Tempe, Arizona reportedly asked six police officers to vacate the premises. According to reports, the officers were told that they were making customers uncomfortable, so they were urged to either leave the store or to move to another area where customers couldn't see them.
It was just minutes after the six police officers purchased their drinks when a Starbucks employee approached them and said that there were complaints from customers. Allegedly, patrons felt nervous with police presence, a sentiment that has been supported by the circulation of viral videos showing violence by officers against citizens. It didn't take long for news to make its way through social media where some called for a boycott of Starbucks for failing to support the police.
“This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening," the Tempe Officers Association tweeted. "While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive." Starbucks posted an apology on its website from Rossann Williams, the executive vice president and president of U.S. Retail, to the officers:
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). Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable.
Our strong relationship with the Tempe Police Department has provided us the opportunity to host several “Coffee with a Cop” events in area stores, which bring residents and police together to discuss relevant issues and find common ground. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with you, and we agree that the experience of your officers requires an important dialogue – one that we are committed to being part of.
What occurred in our store on July 4 is never the experience your officers or any customer should have, and at Starbucks, we are already taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.
You can read their apology in full here. The Tempe Officers Association tweeted that they'd received Starbucks' formal apology, which they accepted, while also mentioning, "While this situation may have started steeped in negativity, we remain determined to turn it into a positive moment for one and all." However, not all Twitter users were ready to let the situation go and began sharing stories and photos of what they believed to be unnecessary violence by Arizona Police officers.