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Columns : Editorial

Make Them Pay

We can't let any food or beverage chain in this country get away with treating law enforcement officers with hostility and contempt.

November 17, 2015  |  by - Also by this author

Last month within about a 10-day period several on-duty law enforcement officers were denied service at outlets of some of the largest restaurant chains in the country. You've read the stories, but I'm going to take you back through one that really makes my blood boil.

On Oct. 11, a Kansas City, Mo., officer went to a local Olive Garden restaurant to enjoy a birthday lunch with his family. He was on duty, in uniform, and of course carrying his sidearm, and he was denied service. Here's a man who serves his community as a police officer who was refused service at Olive Garden on his birthday. I mean it sucks to work on your birthday, but it sucks even more to be told you can't eat someplace on your birthday because you are a police officer.

Olive Garden apologized for the incident and said it was because the officer was armed, not because he was a cop. And I'd like to throw the flag for 15 yards for BS on that explanation. I think this was a political statement by the restaurant's employee. Similar incidents at Hardees and Dunkin' Donuts also occurred last month and at a Florida Arby's this summer.

And enough is enough. These outrages always unfold in the same way. The incident happens, an account of it hits social media, then the press picks up on it, the restaurant company issues some weasel-worded apology saying how much John Doe Burgers "values and honors its police customers." And the whole thing is over.

Well, it's time for that little dance to end. It's time for these companies to learn there will be repercussions for employees treating officers with hostility and contempt. It's time to organize some response. If an employee from the John Doe Burger franchise in Anytown, USA, refuses to serve a law enforcement officer, then it's time to boycott the entire chain, not just the local franchise. It's time for some serious collective punishment. And an apology from the district manager or even the CEO isn't good enough.

Here's my modest proposal. Every time one of these instances in which police officers are treated like second-class citizens occurs, police unions and associations need to tear a piece out of the company.

Once the outrage is verified as more than a rumor, the head of every police union or association in America should send a certified and registered letter to the CEO of that company, not the local franchise owner. The letter should notify the CEO of the following: "Law enforcement and all family, friends, and supporters of law enforcement are organizing a boycott of your company. This boycott and the reasons for it will be heavily publicized via social media. The only actions you can take to persuade us to lift this boycott are to immediately fire the employee involved in the incident where a law enforcement officer was mistreated by your company on (Date) and at (Place) and rewrite your employee handbook to state specifically that any employee found after an investigation to have refused service to a customer because of his or her profession will be terminated immediately."

Police unions and associations are very powerful. And there are some 800,000 active officers in this country. You add together retired officers, friends, family, and supporters, and you easily have a population in the millions. CEOs don't want to hear that a large group of people are going to boycott their companies. And that goes double for executives at the largest restaurant chain companies. Many of them are having some bad quarters and facing some bleak outlooks.

I don't know if this will work. It has worked for other causes. And let's be clear, the goal is not to boycott every restaurant company in America, nor is it to act on rumors. The goal is to force change in the industry.

Now I know that many officers say they never eat or drink anything from fast food restaurants. They say they bring their meals to work every workday or they only eat at select restaurants where they know the staff. That's great. But that doesn't mean that any other officer who wants a burger or a grande latte should be virtually spit on by restaurant employees. It is the right of any person who has the money and desire to be served by these businesses, and if they can't include protections for officers in their corporate regs, then it's time to hammer their bottom lines.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Burke @ 11/18/2015 4:10 PM

While my blood also boils when I read this happening, I think this is absolutely the wrong way to address it. It should be handled between the local franchise and LE. If the company has national policy that prohibits service to on duty Officers then I agree with this editorial. If the issue is because some local employee has issues with LE, then take it up with local franchise. For smaller communities that have national chains, this may cause problems when there are none locally. I couldn't disagree more with this editorial.

plato's playdough @ 11/22/2015 9:23 PM

If there are any attorneys reading this page, perhaps one could speak to the issue of property rights of the business.

If firearms are prohibited on premises, it was a corporate decision. Can't effectively be addressed at the store level.

Classification as a public servant prolly doesn't help either. It isn't like you're gonna tell them that 911 calls to their location will result in no-shows.

You're not gonna put signage in their yard that the area is a police-free zone.

You can't suggest discrimination based on race.

Any person who chooses NOT to make purchases from the business may do so, but tracking that information is unlikely.

Drive-through service does not involve taking a weapon into a store.

LEO enters a store as a customer. If the clerk refuses service, ask for the Manager. Ask Manager if there is written policy regarding the clerk's refusal of service. Either the clerk violated policy or didn't.

Maybe you'll get it resolved at that time.

Any thoughts?

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