Mass shootings are causing a backlash as people have become jittery about guns in public. A police chief banned his officers from a Denny's Restaurant after a manager told an officer to leave because a patron complained she was carrying a gun.
St. Louis-Dispatch reports the incident occurred on New Year's Day at about 10 a.m. at Denny's, 1130 South Illinois Street.
According to Chicago Tribune, officers from the Belleville Police Department, who were not in uniform, went to the Denny's restaurant for lunch. One of the officers carried a gun. St. Louis-Dispatch reports a patron complained to a manager David Rice, who approached the officers and told the armed detective, "Please take your gun to your car or leave. No guns allowed."
Fox News reports that at first, the officers thought it was a joke because although they were not in uniform they had displayed their badges to show they were officers on duty. The officers even had police radios on their table.
According to the police, "(The manager) stated that he had a complaint from another customer about the weapon and she had to take the weapon outside or leave."
The manager told the officers that only officers in uniform could carry weapons. The detectives, feeling offended, got up and said they would leave, while refusing to pay. As they left the restaurant, the general manger Michael Van, came and said the officers could stay.
Capt. Don Sax of the Belleville Police Department, said that at the time the general manger told the officers they could stay, they "were [already] very embarrassed and felt the situation was entirely too awkward for them to remain and all left the restaurant."
Fox News reports Sax, reacting to the incident, said: "The Belleville Police Department is very disheartened by the lack of respect shown to on-duty sworn police officers. Until further notice all on duty Belleville Police officers are banned from Denny’s Restaurant unless responding to an official call for service."
Fox News reports that a spokesperson for Denny’s said the manager who accosted the officers was in error because the restaurant does allow both uniformed and non-uniformed officers to carry weapons.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Denny's spokesperson Liz DiTrapano, said: "Upon further discussion, we became aware the individual was a plain-clothed police officer. Denny's policy permits law enforcement officials to carry their firearms in the restaurant, and we regret any misunderstanding."
The spokesperson described the incident as a case of "miscommunication" that followed a complaint lodged by a patron at the restaurant. The restaurant apologized for the misunderstanding.
BND.com, however, reports that in spite of the apology, Belleville police chief William Clay, apparently upset, proceeded to issue a statement banning on-duty police officers from entering the restaurant. St.Louis-Dispatch reports he said: "There was no sign on the door (regarding firearms). They all looked for it."
The police chief's statement said: "All sworn (uniformed/non-uniformed) officers have been prohibited from entering Denny's Restaurant at 1130 South Illinois for any meal or coffee breaks while on duty. Additionally, no officers may enter the restaurant off-duty if in uniform."
Belleville police also issued a press release, naming the managers involved and describing their behavior as "political stupidness (sic)."
According to the press release by Police Chief William Clay: "This was an insult, a slap in the face, to those detectives and to all of the men and women who proudly wear the uniform or badge and serve in law enforcement. This individual [Rice] was the manager of Denny's. He therefore speaks for Denny's, in my mind. This policy effectively prohibits on-duty sworn police officers from dining in a Denny's Restaurant, but allows 'registered sex offenders,' 'felons' and or 'pedophiles' to enjoy a dining experience in Denny's."
Commenting on the news of the incident spreading on online social media, BND.com reports Clay said: "I had hoped to meet privately with members of Denny's management on a regional level to discuss this policy and share our views.However in today's world of instant social media, such events are difficult if not impossible to resolve confidentially."
St. Louis-Dispatch reports Belleville police said they would follow up with Denny’s management about its policy on firearms.
St. Louis-Dispatch reports diners at Belleville restaurant expressed views about the incident:
John Carrigan, 72, of rural Washington County, Ill., said he understood the concern some diners at Denny’s might have had. "I’d have been scared to see a woman walk in with a gun nowadays with all the shootings," he said.
But Mike Wieland, 51, of Bluford, Ill., sided with the officers. "The police should be able to carry their weapons everywhere they go," Wieland said.
A reader comments on BND.com:
It's obvious that this manager made a mistake. Shouldn't Denny's be given a chance to make this right with the Belleville Police Department before we go talking about boycotts and so forth? Haven't police officers made mistakes in their jobs?
Another reader, Super16, expressed a contrary view:
Denny's is obviously another bastion of anti-gun liberalism, like Buffalo Wild Wings. No more of my business.
Do you think the police authorities were unduly vindictive? Shouldn't they have accepted the apology?