Social media outrage erupted after police officers claimed they were denied service at a Louisville Taco Bell in August 2016.
According to the Associated Press, five Louisville Police Department officers said they visited a local Taco Bell on 19 August 2016, but left without eating:
Fraternal Order of Police president Dave Mutchler says an employee told the officers he wasn’t taking their order and walked away.
The officers then overheard a conversation between two other employees in the kitchen who said they were going to “mess with them.” At that point, the officers decided to leave.
The same coverage noted that Taco Bell immediately apologized to the department, and sent over free meals to make up for the experience. The franchise owner said police did not want anybody terminated over the dispute:
Taco Bell says it apologized to the Louisville Police Department. The franchise owner says police didn’t want the employees to be fired, and the restaurant sent tacos to police headquarters for lunch Wednesday to make amends.
Taco Bell provided a statement about the controversy to local news outlet WLKY:
Taco Bell and Bells & Birds, Inc., the franchise owner of this Louisville Taco Bell, do not tolerate discrimination in any way. Bells & Birds, Inc. deeply regrets these officers felt unwelcome in the restaurant, and has apologized directly to the officers and the Louisville Metro Police Department, who made it clear they did not want anyone to lose their job over this incident. We appreciate their ongoing support, and the franchisee is working to re-train its staff at this location.
Mutchler said the five officers were satisfied with the resolution and Taco Bell's willingness to address their complaints, adding that "problems like this aren't something they see a lot of in Louisville."
The viral story was one of many such claims involving "shunned policeman," rumors which began to circulate in late 2014 after several NYPD officers were purportedly ejected from a Brooklyn Chipotle; an internal investigation by the chain proved that the officers chose to leave after a single employee made a "don't shoot" gesture.
In September 2015, a number of "shunned policeman" stories swept social media, involving a Texas Whataburger, a Philadephia Starbucks, and a Florida Arby's. The following month controversy arose again over an armed police officer at a Kansas City Olive Garden, and by November 2015 an old but similar debate regarding armed law enforcement agents at Buffalo Wild Wings recirculated on social media amid users who believed low-level restaurant workers were abusing police officers as part of an alarming new trend. In 2016, a fake claim about shunned policemen at an Alabama McDonald's led to brief social media outrage, officers in Baton Rouge maintained a server spat in their drinks, and several officers in Homestead, Pennsylvania claimed they paid a tab for a couple who had refused to be seated near them.