Editor's Note: Link to Sun Sentinel Story has changed. It's been updated to report that on Sept. 4 the manager, Mirabel, has been fired and the clerk, Davenport, has been suspended.
An Arby’s location in Florida was forced to apologize after an employee refused to serve a local police officer. USA Today reported that 19-year-old drive-thru clerk Kenneth Davenport at the Pembroke Pines Arby’s didn’t want to serve the officer, and was reportedly “short” when the order was being taken. South Florida’s Sun Sentinel identified the officer as Sgt. Jennifer Martin:
"At this time, the manager, Angel Mirabal, approached the window and stated, 'He doesn't want to serve you because you are a police officer.'"
Martin said that "Davenport had not processed my credit card and had to be ordered to do so by Mirabal.
"I explained to Mirabal that this made me extremely uncomfortable and now wasn't certain I wanted to dine at the restaurant," Martin wrote.
"Mirabal assured me everything was OK and handed me my food," Martin reported. "Mirabal even laughed and said he is allowed to refuse to serve me."
Martin said, "I was uncertain of the condition of my food and felt, for my safety, it would be best not to eat there."
The officer said she went inside the restaurant and received a refund from Mirabal, 22. The manager also gave her his contact information, Martin wrote, but "Davenport refused to have contact with me, ignored me and refused to provide his contact information to me."
No arrests were made. Martin said she filled out the offense report to document the incident.
The Sentinel added that Mirabal could not be reached for comment, but Davenport’s grandfather, Thomas McCutcheon, said the incident was a “misunderstanding.” The teenager was reportedly “overwhelmed” working the drive-thru, he asked his manager for help, he couldn’t see Officer Martin through the intercom, and didn’t know she was a police officer. Davenport told the Sentinel that the situation was "blown way out of proportion," but didn't offer further comments on the matter. The article added that Davenport’s grandfather insists that when Mirabel told Officer Martin that his grandson refused service, “Mirabal meant it as a compliment to the female officer, indicating it was instead his pleasure to serve her.” It was meant to be taken as a joke. I’m not sure I follow this logic (probably because there isn’t any), nor is this funny, especially when social media got a hold of this incident.
Grandfather McCutcheon says his grandson understands the dangers involved with law enforcement. We’ll see how this turns out. Arby’s company headquarters in Atlanta issued a formal apology over the incident, and the Pembroke Pine Police Department considers this case closed.
Regardless, this incident is similar to another nasty rendezvous between law enforcement and local business. Earlier this month, a police officer and his fiancé in Newton, Kansas received their Taco Bell order with the words “PIG” written on their wrappers. Taco Bell also issued a formal apology to the Newton Police Department and fired the employee who was at the center of the controversy.
Given the recent string of police officers being killed in the line of duty, one has to wonder where one’s head is when folks decide to engage in such deplorable behavior towards police. Yes, there is a legitimate debate about holding law enforcement more accountable, but that debate isn’t going to be moved forward in an Arby’s or Taco Bell. It will be grounded in the various conversations between law enforcement, activist groups, and elected officials and codified through policy. You can surely participate in the protests, or the larger debate, after hours. In the meantime, ring up the orders, serve the food, and quit messing around.
This post has been updated with additional information