100 signatures reached
To: Members of the Minnesota State Legislature
Accused of Stealing from Walmart? Pay $500 or Go to Jail!
Support House Bill 1520, which ends Walmart's power to identify shoplifters and force them into paying $500 to avoid further interaction with police. When retailers make %20 from each documented accusation, retailers then have an incentive to persecute people frequently, even when these people's behaviors are innocent. Ultimately, Black and Brown shoppers become targets because racist media programs everyday people to quickly criminalize people of color.
Why is this important?
Walmart is the largest employer in the nation, with over 1.5 million U.S. employees. In Minnesota alone, there are 69 Walmart locations. In fiscal year 2016, Walmart made $14.7 billion in profits, yet still relies on taxpayer-funded law enforcement in their stores.
In 2016, Twin Cities-area Walmart stores made 4,958 calls for police service at a cost of more than $3 million to local taxpayers .Walmart’s solution to offsetting this cost to taxpayers is to hire private precharge companies like Corrective Education Company (CEC) to implement Walmart’s “Restorative Justice” program for suspected shoplifters.
This program is currently in one third of all Walmart U.S. stores. CEC's program allows for a private security guard to identify a suspected shoplifter, lead them to a back room, collect their information, take their fingerprints and mugshot, and run their personal information through a private database to determine if they are eligible for their program. Eligibility for CEC's program is based on several factors, including whether the suspected shoplifter is a first time or repeat offender.
CEC’s program is presented as a choice to enroll in and costs $400 if paid in full ($500 if in payments). The suspected shoplifter must sign an admission of guilt, which can be turned over to the police at any time by the retailer if the person does not complete the program or pay the fee in full. There are additional penalty charges for late payments and failure to pay can result in CEC turning information over to debt collection. Some retailers that contract with CEC are given a percentage of CEC’s fee, typically $40 per case, but there have been claims that retailers can make up to $100 per case.
Criticism of this program is extensive, including claims that this program violates constitutional due process, utilizes coercion and extortion tactics, and employs racial profiling to identify suspected shoplifters. There is also concern over CEC’s private database that maintains all personal information for each suspected shoplifter “indefinitely.” In November 2015, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued CEC for extortion, unfair business practices, false imprisonment, and more. The case is set to go to trial in October 2017.