Poconos resort under fire after video of Black guests wrongly accused of shoplifting goes viral




  • In US
  • 2022-01-26 21:20:56Z
  • By Pocono Record
 

A ski resort in the Poconos is fielding claims of racism and discrimination after a video of five Black guests who were wrongly accused of shoplifting went viral over the weekend.

"We were having a blast. We were having a great time," said one of the women in a video posted to TikTok. "It wasn't until we finished and were legit about to leave when we were stopped and racially profiled."

Pocono Township police officers questioned the women outside of a ski shop at Camelback Mountain about a suspected theft that took place earlier that afternoon. The man suspected of shoplifting was Black, the police said, and they'd left the store around the same time as the group of women.

"I hear them say, 'Just give back the merchandise and we won't arrest you,'" the woman said in the video posted to TikTok.

Her friend began to laugh, because she thought it was a joke, she said. It wasn't. The group showed the officers their receipt for the gloves and goggles they'd bought, and said the police pressed instead for the name of the man who'd shoplifted.

Black people who walk out of stores at the same time don't all know each other, she said she told the officers. Others had left the store around the same time as their group, the woman said. People who weren't Black.

"'Did you ask them if they knew the man?'" she said she asked police. "They said no."

She called the officers racist, and then she said they laughed: "'Don't pull the race card.'"

"We were scared," the woman said. "We really thought we were gonna be arrested."

The interrogation ended after it became clear that none of the women stole anything, nor did they know the name of anyone who did.

"We were distressed to learn of our guests who were wrongly accused of shoplifting at our resort this weekend," said Kit Pappas, the managing director and vice president of Camelback Resort. "We want to emphasize that Camelback Resort does not tolerate bias of any kind and has clear non-bias policies in place regarding discrimination and harassment."

The statement was posted to all of Camelback's social media accounts Tuesday, the comment section of each disabled.

Marguarite Clark, a spokesperson for Camelback Resort, confirmed that employees on Camelback's security team called the police.

"Based on our investigation, we determined Camelback employees acted appropriately," she wrote in an email. "They turned the matter over to the Pocono Township police as soon as it was clear that a shoplifting incident occurred."

The police reviewed the security footage and approached the women of their own volition, she said. She added that the resort is reviewing its diversity, equity and inclusion training for opportunities to improve.

Still, users took to the comment sections of previous Camelback posts to condone the incident and demand that the resort formally apologize. Clark said the resort reached out to the woman on TikTok, but she declined to speak with them.

Pocono Township Police has not released a statement regarding the incident. Kent Werkheiser, the police chief, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Pocono Township police officers faced scrutiny for another incident at Camelback's Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark in 2020. Cell phone footage of an arrest prompted concerns of excessive force, though an investigation by the Monroe County District Attorney's Office found that no excessive force was used.

Hannah Phillips is the public safety reporter at Pocono Record. Reach her at hphillips@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: TikTok: Police wrongly accuse Black guest of shoplifting at PA resort

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