The Roche Bros. supermarket chain has agreed to pay a $40,000 penalty and make changes to its security protocols at its store in Boston’s Downtown Crossing to resolve allegations that a third-party security contractor engaged in racial profiling there, according to court records.
Details of the agreement between Mansfield-based Roche Bros. and state Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell’s office were disclosed in a 12-page document filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.
“Roche Bros. is an inclusive, diverse, and community-oriented organization that stands strongly against racial profiling,” CEO Kevin Barner said in a statement. “We do not take the Attorney General’s allegations lightly and we’ve worked hard to create solutions that will improve our in-store security measures for our employees, customers and vendors. We are working closely with the Commonwealth’s office and independent consultants to proactively implement new policies, trainings, and procedures relative to our in-store experience.”
Employees from Northeast Security, a Westwood-based company Roche Bros. retained to deter theft at the Boston store, allegedly profiled customers, Campbell’s office said. The agreement did not say when the allegations were made.
“Specifically, the Commonwealth alleges that Black customers in particular were disproportionately subjected to stops” by Northeast personnel, the agreement stated. Campbell’s office “further alleges that some Black customers who were stopped were banned from later entering” the store at disproportionate rates.
Northeast Security couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
“The Commonwealth further alleges that Roche Bros. failed to exercise sufficient oversight over third-party security officers’ loss-prevention activities,” by failing to provide regular antidiscrimination training, insufficiently documenting stops of suspected shoplifters, failing to properly review incident reports for racial disparities, and failing to document and respond adequately to profiling complaints, the agreement aid.
Roche Bros., which employs about 3,400 people in 20 stores across Eastern Massachusetts, cooperated with the investigation but disputes the attorney general’s claims, the agreement said. The grocer said it hired the security firm for the Downtown Crossing store, which opened in 2015, because there had been “a significant amount of theft” there.
“If Roche Bros. had any reason to believe that [Northeast Security] was targeting any specific groups based on their skin color or other protected characteristics — instead of based on reasonable suspicion of theft — it would have ended its relationship with the company immediately,” the agreement said. “Thus, Roche’s position is that it should not be held accountable for the alleged acts of a third-party company and its employees.”
Campbell said in a statement that racial profiling of shoppers is a “systemic issue” that the state continues to confront.
“The sad reality is that some consumers are unfairly viewed as suspicious simply because of how they look,” Campbell said. “In this settlement, Roche Bros. is required to implement robust measures to protect consumers from discrimination moving forward, and we’ll continue our work to fight discrimination in retail establishments and beyond.”
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, said by email that the agreement is a “matter of public accommodations” and basic fairness.
“Recent developments with Roche Bros. remind us that compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws remains essential to ensure that people of color have equal access to public spaces and retail stores,” Espinoza-Madrigal wrote. “Monitoring for compliance is absolutely critical.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.