Police have apologised after ten black university students were falsely accused of not paying for their meal.
The Washington University students were heading home around 12:30am, 8 July, after a late-night meal at IHOP, when they were stopped by officers in Clayton, a St Louis suburb.
The officers told them they were suspects in a crime that had just occurred at IHOP and escorted back to the restaurant by squad cars, despite showing officers receipts for their meal, the New York Postreports.
When they arrived at the restaurant it was revealed that the students, who are incoming freshmen, were not the suspects from IHOP.
Police chief Kevin Murphy said an internal investigation had been launched after complaints from the parents of one of the students.
Washington University released a statement expressing their disappointment over the incident:
We are deeply concerned and disappointed that anyone – certainly any of our students – would experience what transpired on July 7.
The fact that these 10 students, all of whom are African American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us.
We have shared that sentiment directly with the City of Clayton and have had an opportunity to meet with city leaders to reiterate our concerns.
Conversations continue and we are hopeful that our students will hear directly from the City of Clayton with both an explanation and an apology.
Washington University provost Holden Thorp said he is "embarrassed to be a resident of Clayton":
I’m embarrassed to be a resident of Clayton. Thanks to all our folks who are providing support to these great stude… https://t.co/CUfziicFXs
Clayton police released a statement apologising for the unpleasant start to these students's lives at Washington University:
We are so sorry this was the start for these newest Washington University in St. Louis Bears. For more than one hundred years we have welcomed university students from around the world to be a part of our community.
While it is our duty to respond when businesses call for help, we aim to do this in a way that is as respectful and safe for all concerned as we can be.
Chief Murphy has reached out to the university within hours of hearing about this to try to meet with these students to both hear what they have to say, but also to assure them (and their families who may be distant) that Clayton and Washington University have a long and proud tradition of safety and support for all students.
The department added that there had been 45 dine-and-dash calls since January at the restaurant involved, and that they were open to looking for ways to improve their response:
This particular restaurant has had 45 “dine and dash” calls since January. It is sad and unfortunate that so many people treat this business this way. The additional cost of this kind of criminal activity is that it leaves the community open to collateral damage such as this incident.
Our department has and will continue to study what could have been done better in this and in all incidents where we have complaints. Even without any apparent policy or legal violations, we look for ways to improve and make our officers even more effective in positive interactions.
Outside of learning how to be better, we are most concerned at this point with restoring the confidence of these newest Clayton residents that they are safe and welcome in Clayton. We look forward to meeting with them soon.
IHOP spokesperson Stephanie Peterson told the New York Post:
[IHOP] has proudly been a welcoming and safe place for those in our communities and our franchisees continually strive to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.