Shortly after midnight on October 14, two police officers were refused service at a Denison, Texas, Whataburger. Additionally, the officers were allegedly cursed out by the employee who refused service.
Later that same day, Denison Chief Jay Burch posted a letter on the Denison Texas Police Department’s Facebook page about the incident:
The Denison Police Department enjoys great support from most of our community and our businesses. I get it, especially with the anti-police rhetoric from the national media and police-hate groups we see in the country, that many people buy into that rhetoric and dislike police. Most of those that I have come across in my career that hate cops are very familiar with us because many have a lengthy history of arrests or have friends or family members with such a history. I get all this and we get used to it for the most part.
But when 2 of my officers were refused service by an employee of a local restaurant on October 14 just after midnight, then cursed by that employee and the on-duty manager’s only response is, “I don’t get into politics”, that concerns me. If a business does not want police officers as customers, just let us know. There’s no need to curse us and make a scene, just let us know you don’t want us there and we’ll go somewhere else.
Now going somewhere else in Denison in the middle of the night is not easy because our officers don’t have many options. What really gets my goat with such an incident is that while most of us are sleeping – sleeping! The officers are out there working hard to keep us safe and when trying to take a break to eat – they face this type of reception from an employee of a local business and management calls it “politics”? The employee also said she would continue to refuse to serve officers. Now we know and rest assured officers will no longer patronize this business. Many of the officers also fear food-tampering with an attitude like this from such an employee.
As we most always try to do when there is a conflict, a police supervisor went to the restaurant and asked to speak to the employee in an effort to understand why she felt the way she did toward police. The employee alleged “cops beat up my boyfriend and are racists." When questioned further, the employee said her boyfriend was “beat up” when arrested by DPD a few weeks ago. The police supervisor went to the station and found the documentation of the arrest, then reviewed the video or audio of the arrest from the arresting officer’s dash cam. It was a “routine” arrest. There was no physical altercation and no one injured. So the employee was simply lying about her boyfriend getting “beat up” by police.
I’ve seen similar service refusal stories like this around the state and country but never thought we’d see it locally. Yet, while disappointing that this one business takes or supports such an anti-police stance, we relish in the fact the majority of the Denison businesses and citizens we serve greatly support us and what we do to try to keep our community safe.
Oh, one last thing……Even though this one business accepts employees that refuse to serve and then curse cops, I guarantee you when they call 9-1-1 and need us, we’ll come running. That’s what cops do.
Chief Jay Burch
Proud to serve at Denison PD
October 14, 2017
In response, Fox News reports that Whataburger terminated the offending employee, and released a statement that reads in part: "... an individual employee acted out of line with Whataburger's values to treat all customers with respect. We took swift action and this person is no longer employed by us."
In an update on Facebook, Chief Burch wrote that the "men and women of the Denison Police Department have been overwhelmed by the local, regional and national support shown us after the incident." He added that the department had "spoken with local and state executives from Whataburger," and that it was a "positive meeting."
In my conversation yesterday with the Whataburger CEO, I was grateful for the apology but noted concern that as these incidents become more prevalent, apologies can be perceived as just a band-aid to a bigger problem. For example, all employees of the City of Denison, not just police officers, are taught in new employee orientation the values of our organization and in our manual we receive details of acceptable and unacceptable behavior by employees, plus the consequences of violating expectations. We sign off on that when hired. I expressed the same idea to Whataburger and said I wish all corporations that serve the public would do the same with new employees, and I’m sure many do.
The pendulum swung, and allegedly, some began threatening local Whataburger stores.
Burch posted yet another update, expressing disappointment that "a few people out there ... have taken their support too far and allegedly made threats to some of the Whataburger stores in the region or state." He then asked the citizens who may be making threats to please cease and desist.
He added that "community partnerships" between police and local companies mean a lot, and that he’s "heard from police officers around the state that noted their local Whataburgers had reached out to them to show their support ..."
Regarding the decision to make the incident public, Burch said:
Now, I’m sure there will be some who will say regarding the threats, “What did you expect to happen by publishing this incident?” What we expected was for a corporation to take ownership of a problem and take corrective action to resolve it – and try to prevent such incidents in the future. That is exactly what Whataburger Corporation did! They wasted no time and immediately responded to our concerns.
In conclusion, it’s best to avoid cursing out and refusing service to police officers who put their lives on the line every day so that you can sleep safely at night.