NEWS: Arby's apologized after receiving reports a police officer was refused service at a location in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
On 1 September 2015, a female police officer in Pembroke Pines, Florida claimed she was denied service at a local Arby's due to her occupation.
Local paper the Sun-Sentinel reported that an individual identifying herself as an officer with the department made the claim on Twitter (the tweet in question wasn't linked). The outlet stated that Pembroke Pines Police Chief Dan Giustino immediately called for an apology from the chain:
The Pembroke Pines police chief demanded — and quickly received — an apology from the Arby's restaurant chain after one of the city's uniformed officers said she was denied service "due to being a police officer."
The incident allegedly happened at the Arby's at 11755 Pines Blvd. in the Pembroke Lakes Mall.
"I am offended and appalled that an individual within our community would treat a police officer in such a manner," Chief Dan Giustino said in a news release. "It is unacceptable, and I will be contacting the Arby's CEO to demand an apology."
The identity of the officer in question was later reported by news outlets and confirmed in an "Offense Report" (labeled as filed for "informational purposes") published by the @PPinesPD Twitter account:
Sgt Jennifer Martin is the @PPinesPD officer refused service by @Arbys manager because she's a cop. @nbc6 pic.twitter.com/WmjJaYjUnH
— Keith Jones NBC 6 (@KeithNBC6) September 2, 2015
The incident report regarding Arby's (11755 Pines) is available on our site. The #PPPD considers the matter closed; https://t.co/GmFmwxTV8s
— Pembroke Pines PD (@PPinesPD) September 2, 2015
The department took pains to document the officer's claim, given that her assertion closely resembles a perennially popular urban legend known as the "Shunned Serviceman." Claims of a similar nature (generally about the military) inevitably provoke outrage on social media, but rarely do they bear out under scrutiny.
Reports on Twitter stated that the wives of police officers demonstrated in front of an unspecified Arby's with signs that read "Police Lives Matter Too" and "All Lives Matter" in response to the story:
Cop wives protesting @Arbys after @PPinesPD officer denied service. pic.twitter.com/KlV48ORtND
— Brandon Beyer (@beyernews) September 2, 2015
Those who read the incident report might have observed that Martin wasn't technically refused service, even by her own account. If her statement was entirely accurate, an Arby's employee apparently gave Martin an unwelcome response as she placed her order and then expressed to his management that he didn't want to finish serving her, whereupon a manager stepped in and ordered the employee to complete the transaction. But after Martin received her food she felt uncomfortable eating it, so she requested and received a refund without further incident.
On 2 September 2015, Arby's Chief Executive Officer Paul Brown personally issued an apology Giustino:
We take this isolated matter very seriously as we respect and support police officers in our local communities. As soon as the issue was brought to our attention, our CEO spoke with the Police Chief who expressed his gratitude for our quick action and indicates the case is closed. We will be following up with our team members to be sure that our policy of inclusion is understood and adhered to.
However, Miami-Dade Police Union president John Rivera requested police supporters boycott Arby's until the two employees named in the report were fired:
It is beyond comprehension and deeply troubling that a business would deny service to a law enforcement officer just for being a law enforcement officer. This is yet another example of the hostile treatment of our brave men and women simply because they wear a badge. It is unacceptable and warrants much more than an apology.
There seems no doubt that an uncomfortable interaction occurred between Martin and the Arby's employees, but it's also possible that the exchange was a poorly received joke or otherwise awkward attempt at humor. The employee in question said as much: that he didn't deal with Martin only because he was too busy to do so, and the comment about his not wanting to serve her because she was a police officer wasn't something he expressed, but rather a (rather lame) joke his manager made up:
Kenny Davenport said he was working when Pembroke Pines Police Sergeant Jennifer Martin pulled up to the drive thru.
Davenport said that he couldn’t serve Martin, but not because she’s a police officer. He said it was because he was so busy with other customers that he had to ask his manager for help. Davenport said that’s when his manager made the unfortunate joke to Martin about not being able to take her order.
“We don’t hate cops,” Davenport said. “We don’t hate anybody. We’re just trying to get people out of the drive thru.”
Nonetheless, a few days later Arby's confirmed that they had fired the manager and suspended the clerk involved in the incident.