Roche Bros. agreed to measures to reduce the way Blacks were "disproportionately subjected to stops" for alleged shoplifting and then permanently banned in higher numbers than similarly stopped whites to settle an investigation by the state Attorney General's office.
In the agreement, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Roche Bros. denied it was doing anything discriminatory, that it is a completely inclusive company that "welcomes customers regardless of race or any other characteristic protected by law," that it was aghast at the state's allegations about guards from the security company it had hired and that "it would have ended its relationship with the company immediately" had it known about the problem.
Roche Bros., which opened its Summer Street location in 2015, hired Northeast Security to provide guards because of a "significant amount of theft" at the store and figured it was time to bring in loss-prevention specialists.
But, the AG's office says:
Black customers in particular were disproportionately subjected to stops by third-party security personnel ... The Commonwealth further alleges that some Black customers who were stopped were banned from later entering Roche Bros. Downtown Crossing - through third-party security officers' use of "No Trespass" orders - at rates that were disproportionate to their percentage of the population, and disproportionate to their share of stops generally.
The state also alleges that Roche Bros. failed to exercise "sufficient oversight" over the security company, provide anti-discrimination training to either the guards and its own workers at the store and failed to review shoplifting reports to ensure no group was being singled out for enforcement.
Under the agreement, Roche Bros. will hire an outside consultant to review its loss-prevention practices and develop "a policy explaining and prohibiting racial profiling, including a policy stating that discrimination against customers or other members of the public based on race or other protected characteristics is strictly prohibited, including in connection with security practices." At the outset, all workers will be required to go through training on the policy; going forward, new employees will have to be trained and current employees will have to be re-trained once every three years.
The company will also have to place a noticeable sign in the store "explaining the legal prohibitions against racial profiling" and tell customers how to lodge complaints
Along with that, the company has to develop an internal protocol for handling complaints and drafting reports on individual incidents that will then be reviewed by a "security review committee" of Roche Bros. managers, one that will be charged with "investigating any unjustified security stops and any complaints of discrimination by customers or members of the public."
The store will also abandon its current "pre-printed no-trespass letters" at the store - bans of specific people will have to be approved by the chain's loss-prevention manager and include a statement of specifically why a person is being banned.
In addition, Roche Bros. agreed to pay the state $40,000.