A former employee of a Starbucks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, was arrested and charged Monday after being accused of spitting in drinks ordered by police officers.
Park Ridge Police Chief Joseph Madden released a statement asserting that an investigation found that Kevin Trejo, 21, of Westwood, was “spitting in the drinks of law enforcement that patronized the establishment.”
Trejo was charged with the following crimes: “Subject a law enforcement officer to contact with bodily fluid,” “knowingly tamper with a cup of coffee, knowing it was ordered by a law enforcement officer,” and “creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition.”
“We got a tip that he had done this. That was enough for our detective bureau to get concerned, especially during” the coronavirus pandemic, Capt. Joseph Rampolla told NBC News. “We believe it happened more than once but we can prove it happened at least once on May 25,” he added.
Rampolla noted that the Starbucks in question had hosted many “Coffee with a Cop” events.
The police department has alerted officers from surrounding areas who might have purchased drinks at the Starbucks.
A Starbucks spokesman, Reggie Borges, told NBC News that Trejo had been fired.
“This individual’s behavior was reprehensible and not at all a reflection of how our employees treat our customers on a daily basis,” said Borges. “We have apologized to the Park Ridge Police department.”
“Everyone who comes into our stores should receive a positive experience and when that doesn’t occur, we move quickly to address it and hold ourselves accountable,” Borges said. “We will continue to support Park Ridge Police in support of their investigation and have a deep respect for the Park Ridge Police Department and the officers who help keep our partners and communities safe.”
Joel Shults, a retired chief of police from Colorado, noted in an opinion piece published in February 2018:
A quick internet search shows Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, Whataburger, Buffalo Wild Wings, McDonalds, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, Arby’s, Chuck E. Cheese, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Portland’s Red & Black café and others have shared in the inevitably disastrous public backlash after refusing service to police officers.
The former police chief offered advice to officers dealing with hostility from employees:
If it is possible to clarify the law or policy and make a quick end to any objection to your presence, make sure that happens calmly and quickly. There’s no joy is trying to eat with your teeth set on edge or being stared at by an upset employee. Take note of who witnessed the affront so that the he-said-she-said argument can be quickly squashed. Body cams should go on, or even your dining companion’s cell phone video can prove how reasonably the officer acted. If there is a Twitter or YouTube war, you have to play to win.
Offering to speak with any offended party and being open to conversation, along with your super-calm demeanor, will be more important than any quick victory won by harsh words, threats, or dramatic exits.
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