The sign on an awning of a Barneys New York retail store is seen in New York October 24, 2013. A civil rights organization on Thursday demanded a meeting with the CEO of Barneys New York and threatened to picket the luxury department store in Manhattan after two black customers said they were stopped by police after making expensive purchases. Reuters/Eric Thayer

An African American student has been awarded US$45,000 (AU$65,000) after the New York Police Department profiled him for credit card fraud. Trayon Christian was questioned by the police when he bought a US$349 (AU$502) Ferragamo belt from upscale department store Barneys in 2013.

The city of New York agreed to settle US$45,000 with Christian, according to court documents filed on Tuesday. The student sued the city and Barneys, seeking unspecified damages. The amount he is asking from the high-end retailer is unknown.

“Settling was in the best interest of the city,” Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the law department of New York, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Racial profiling allegation

In 2013, the then-18-year-old Christian, an engineering student at the New York City College of Technology who also had a work-study job, said he was targeted by the store and the New York police for being black. After he received his paycheque on April 29, he went straight to Barneys to buy the expensive belt, which he had seen his favourite celebrities wearing.

He paid for the belt using his debit card and signed his name. When he was asked to show his identification card, he handed the Barneys clerk his state ID. He then took his purchase and left the store.

However, he was stopped by two undercover NYPD detectives a block away from the store. They accused him of having a fake card, saying someone at Barneys had called to report it. They also asked to see his ID and looked in his bag, asking him questions about his job.

“The detectives were asking me, ‘How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?’” he told the New York Daily News in late 2013 after he filed for a lawsuit. The detectives then handcuffed and took him to a police station, where he was detained in a holding cell for two hours.

He was released with his debit card, his purchase and an apology from the police. The NYPD claimed he was detained for only 40 minutes and was released as soon as they determined his debit card was authentic.

“I bought the belt back to Barneys a few days later and returned it. I got my money back, I’m not shopping there again,” he said. “It’s cruel and racist.”

Barneys released a statement at the time, saying the company “has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination.”

Barneys fined for discrimination

In 2014, Barneys agreed to pay US$525,000 (AU$757,000) as settlement following a nine-month-long investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. The case was separate from Christian’s lawsuit.

It was found that the retailer had policies enforced in the store that targeted minorities. According to the Attorney General, Barneys staff were trained to monitor people of colour inside their store even when they were identified as clients and frequent patrons. Records also showed that a disproportionate number of African-American and Latino customers were detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud inside the store.

Apart from the monetary settlement, Barneys also agreed to a number of actions, including conducting anti-profiling training for employees and investigating customer complaints of profiling.