Denison Police Chief Jay Burch praised the quick response of Whataburger and its executives after a now-former employee of the Denison Whataburger refused to serve two Denison police officers early Saturday morning.
“Several Whataburger executives came to the Denison store to meet with those officers refused service just 24 hours previously,” Burch wrote Sunday morning in a post on the PD’s Facebook page. “Other officers on duty were present as well. It was a positive meeting and we appreciate the timely response of Whataburger officials to address this problem and certainly were appreciative of the apologies given.”
Just after midnight Saturday morning the Whataburger employee told two DPD officers who had come into the restaurant that she would not serve them. She told the officers, “'cops beat up my boyfriend and are racists,”’ according to an earlier post by Burch. When questioned further, the employee said her boyfriend was 'beat up' when arrested by DPD a few weeks ago.”
When Sgt. Holly Jenkins contacted the on-duty manager the manager told her “I don’t get into politics,” according to a public post on Jenkins’ personal Facebook page.
By Saturday afternoon, Whataburger said it had terminated the employee who refused to serve the officers and promised to retrain the other employees involved.
“In my conversation yesterday with the Whataburger CEO, I was grateful for the apology but noted concern that as these incidents become more prevalent, apologies can be perceived as just a band-aid to a bigger problem,” Burch wrote. “For example, all employees of the City of Denison, not just police officers, are taught in new employee orientation the values of our organization and in our manual we receive details of acceptable and unacceptable behavior by employees, plus the consequences of violating expectations. We sign off on that when hired. I expressed the same idea to Whataburger and said I wish all corporations that serve the public would do the same with new employees, and I’m sure many do.”
The story got national, as well as regional attention with many calling for a boycott of the location and in some cases the Texas-based, family-owned chain.
Burch thanked the public for its outpouring of support but said a boycott wasn’t necessary.
“If Whataburger Corporation ignored the incident, then such an action may be called for but they have quickly and graciously responded,” he wrote. “A dialog of communication has been established by their corporate office with our department and nothing but good can come from that.”
In a post on her page early Sunday morning, Jenkins echoed Burch's sentiment: "At midnight tonight, several senior Whataburger leaders left their families to come and personally apologize to the officers who were refused service last night. Words are one thing but the actions by these leaders show they are drawing the line, they will not tolerate this type of behavior from any of their staff. The conversation was heartfelt and sincere. They expressed hurt and embarrassment that this incident occurred at one of their establishments. They accepted responsibility and made no excuses. They talked with us about the changes they are working on, changes to help ensure incidents like this don't continue to happen."
In his post, Burch also responded to critics of the department’s handling of the incident: “For the very few that criticized me or our department for the way this incident was handled and/or publicized, we tried to handle it locally to no avail so I made the decision to take the next step. Plus, those of you that know me know I won’t take unnecessary abuse and cursing at my officers like that sitting down. I get that such verbal abuse goes with the territory of being a cop but when it’s a simple thing like trying to take a lunch break and they are lambasted with profanity, enough is enough.”