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Georgetown Business Group Accused of Racial Profiling

Updated on October 23, 2015

Georgetown Faces Dilemma Between Business or Ethics

The Georgetown Business Improvement District near downtown Washington is being accused of supporting racial profiling with a private messaging service used by its residents.

The messaging service is sometimes used by police, retailers and others to exchange information on persons they consider suspicious in the trendy shopping area, according to a report by The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net).

The Business Improvement District (BID) joined with the D.C. police in February 2014 to start “Operation GroupMe” as a means of controlling shoplifting.

Thousands of messages have been sent since the launch date. About 70 percent of them discuss black people. About 90 percent of the photos posted on the site showed black people.

One of the risks run by the messaging service is that persons listed as suspicious on the site could claim a 14th Amendment civil rights violation.

As a result, Georgetown BID announced recently it would suspend the messaging service until it can figure out a way to avoid the image of racial profiling.

The BID’s executive director said he would review Operation GroupMe and reinstate it only after everyone with access to the application has undergone anti-racial profiling training.

Only after this work has been completed and we can determine that a tool like the GroupMe app can be deployed to effectively meet the highest standards of professionalism and protection of all Georgetown’s customers will we revisit putting it back online, the Georgetown BID said in a statement

After the news media reported the racial profiling allegations, some Washington residents urged each other on social media to stop shopping in Georgetown.

The BID statement said that while the app has been effective in deterring shoplifting, the news stories and the dialogue that followed have brought up legitimate concerns about the use of the app and its potential to wrongfully identify shoppers as shoplifters.

Anti-Shoplifting Program Accused of Racial Profiling

Retailers in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood are casting suspicions mostly on black people as potential shoplifters with a new Internet messaging service.
Retailers in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood are casting suspicions mostly on black people as potential shoplifters with a new Internet messaging service.

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