In Washington D.C., trespassing is defined as a situation when one is on property without the authorization or consent of the property owner or acting owner. Trespassing is not the most serious crime and many people, especially since first time offenders are eligible for the “stet docket.” A stet docket is when the government contracts with the defendant indicating that they will suspend prosecution for a set period of time in which the defendant cannot get in any trouble and must live within the law. If they abide by the conditions set forth, then the case will be dismissed. This is a way for the justice system to make sure it is not criminalizing minor mistakes that can cause an unnecessary ripple effect, negatively impacting someone’s whole life. If a stet docket is not used, then the defendant does proceed through the court system and has the potential of being fined up to $1,000 or spending 180 days in jail in the District of Columbia.
Last week in Philadelphia, two men were arrested to trespassing in a Starbucks. The men had not purchased anything and were asked to leave by a Starbucks employee, as is custom at Starbucks when someone does not intend of making a purchase. The two men explained that they were waiting for a friend, who would purchase something, but the employee proceeded to call the police and report the men for trespassing. The police arrived, arrested the two men and walked them out as their friend arrived.
The reason that this incident has made national news is that these two men were African-American and there are suspicions that the reason the employee did not believe that their friend was meeting them and decided to report them to the police was due to their skin color. The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, has profusely apologized for the incident. Johnson has explained that Starbucks is “firmly against discrimination or racial profiling” and that the company’s “practices and training led to a bad outcome.” It is clear that the problem has been recognized and is attempted at being addressed.
Ultimately, Starbucks does have the right to ask people to leave if they are not paying customers, but if it is treating certain people different ways due to their skin color, then they have employees that hold racist views in implementing the policies. The procedure set by Starbucks is fair, but how it is being implemented, specifically in this situation, is not equal. This issue needs to be addressed and re-evaluated by all Starbucks stores across the country.
There is some outrage directed towards the police after they arrested the two men, but we cannot have the police deciding whom they should or should not arrest when looking at the situation because then the laws protecting equality will be put at an even greater risk. In this situation, the police did follow protocol when arresting the men who were reported by an employee for trespassing. It is important to remain focused on the issue at hand, which is the use of the law to carry out a discriminatory act. Even though trespassing is not a major crime and does not usually carry great punishment, it still greatly affects an individual’s life, so it is crucial that people do not use the law to carry out personal discriminatory beliefs and get away with it.