Magazine article Security Management

Eddie Bauer Adjusts Security Policies

Magazine article Security Management

Eddie Bauer Adjusts Security Policies

Article excerpt

Eddie Bauer has changed its security policies after a highly publicized incident that sparked a lawsuit and charges of racism by community groups.

The incident involved two white, off-duty county police officers who worked as security officers for one of the store's warehouse outlets in the Washington, D.C., area. The officers detained two black youths on suspicion of theft of a shirt, which one of them was wearing. When the teen wearing the shirt told the officers he had bought it at the store the previous day, one officer allegedly ordered him to remove the shirt, go home, and return with a receipt. Meanwhile, the other young man was allegedly forced to wait in a corner of the store.

Officials at Eddie Bauer - a Redmond, Washington-based specialty retail and mail order company with almost $1.5 billion in annual sales - say that many of the facts are not clear because the two officers involved have refused to talk to them on advice of counsel. "To this day we don't know why this officer chose to focus on this young man," says Dave Hyatt, Eddie Bauer's director of loss prevention.

But Hyatt says that the officers' alleged actions violated company policy and ran counter to their training. Officers are taught to approach suspected shoplifters in a completely nonaccusatory fashion.

Although Eddie Bauer officials do not know what role race played in the incident, Hyatt says that security officers are also trained to be race neutral. "It's not good loss prevention practice to have people focus on stereotypes and prejudices," he explains. "We want them focused on specific behaviors that customers might exhibit that relate to shoplifting."

In a preliminary investigation of the incident, Hyatt says that an on-site manager told loss prevention officials at the company that one of the officers ignored his specific instructions not to accuse or stop the suspect or in any way interact with this person concerning shoplifting, but rather just to make his presence known.

The officers and store management also violated policy by failing to file an incident report with upper management, which Hyatt said would have prompted the company to reach out and apologize much earlier than it did. Moreover, when a woman - who Hyatt thinks was the mother or aunt of one of the youths - called the customer complaint department to report what happened, staff could not refer to an incident report because none existed. …

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