July 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Talbots reaches out to Detroit official over actions at Grosse Pointe store

Portia Roberson, chief of Detroit's Civil Rights and Ethics Division (The Detroit News, file)

A national women’s retailer is apologizing to a top Detroit official over how she was treated last weekend at a Grosse Pointe location.

Portia Roberson, the city’s group executive for ethics and civil rights, said she wanted to return two items Sunday to the Talbots store on Kercheval, but police officers were called, she said in a recent social media post.

In a statement, company officials said: “Our CEO, Lizanne Kindler, has reached out directly to Ms. Roberson regarding the incident and has apologized to Ms. Roberson for how she was treated. We take the claims made by Ms. Roberson very seriously and we are currently investigating all aspects of the incident.

“We acknowledge that the police should not have been called and acknowledge that her personal belongings should not have been searched. This action was contrary to Talbots policies and practices and was an isolated incident that does not reflect the Talbots culture. All customers are welcome in our stores.”

Roberson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In the social media post, Roberson wrote she brought to the store a large bag with two items she had ordered online but wanted to return. Roberson wrote she told the sales clerk she wanted to look around the store before returning the items.

After leaving a fitting room where she’d tried on clothes, Roberson wrote, two Grosse Pointe police officers asked to search her bag. She said in the post she agreed to the search and showed the officers her receipt.

Roberson wrote that the officer said there was a mistake and he told the clerk she had bought all her items. Roberson then went to the counter and returned her purchases as well as the items she had intended to buy, she said in her post.

The store manager explained “she had asked the police to do a walk around the store because it was so busy (four customers, including me),” Roberson wrote. “I pointed out to her that after searching me, they left without searching anyone else.”

Roberson did not respond to repeated attempts to contact her.

Through a mutual aid agreement, Grosse Pointe Park public safety officers responded about 3:46 p.m. Sunday since Grosse Pointe officers were unavailable, Sgt. Joseph Srebernak said. “We did go and there was no problem found. … It looks like everyone was cooperative.”

A University of Michigan graduate and former assistant Wayne County prosecutor, Roberson has also been a Detroit corporation counsel. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed the Detroit native to direct the U.S. Department of Justice Intergovernmental Affairs office in Washington. In 2011, she led the federal Strong City, Strong Communities Initiative with the White House.

Portia Roberson, chief of Detroit's Civil Rights and Ethics Division (The Detroit News, file)