Be honest: What would happen if you were mistakenly accused of shoplifting in a grocery store? Bottom line: The store would apologize. Here's why:
Consider this scenario: You are shopping at a grocery store. A fellow customer suspects you of shoplifting and reports those allegations to store security.
The situation looks suspicious. You have been spotted cramming food packages into a bag. It looks bad.
The reality: Prior to arriving at the store, you had purchased items at another store. In the second store, you were comparing ingredients to make sure your new purchases will match the other items.
Bottom line: The situation looks suspect, but you have a valid explanation.
Security officer: Doing his or her job, the officer confronts and arrests you. Eventually, the situation is resolved when you produce receipts and match the “suspected merchandise” with the legitimate documentation.
The fallout: In the meantime, tense words are exchanged. Both sides – the customer and store security – get belligerent and angry. It’s not pretty. We won't even talk about race. Let's stay green.
The smart Customer Relations strategy: However, at this point, either the store manager or the security officer realizes that a serious mistake launched the entire scenario. As the well-meaning, but misdirected agent of the mistake, it’s the store’s obligation to diffuse the situation. That was not done in Cambridge.
The Green Solution: The customer has been wrongly accused. In a savvy mode, the store apologizes. The officer apologizes. The wrongly accused accepts the apology and apologizes for the subsequent belligerent tone.
Everyone moves on. And that’s what happens when you remove race from the situation.
The Cambridge Police made a mistake. We all make mistakes. For the police, there’s a civic obligation to acknowledge that a mistake – however well-intended -- occurred.
It’s not (just) about race.* It’s about good customer service.
*Edited to add: It's not JUST about race. The above scenario was created to show that even if we remove the racial element from the story, the Cambridge Police Department erred.
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