DENISON — Sometimes, the hard feelings over perceived injustice in America are as far away as a TV pro football game.

Sometimes, they’re as close as the burger stand down the street.

Police in Denison, near the Oklahoma border, say a Whataburger worker declined to take their order Saturday.

Officers said she told them she hated police, and that officers had beaten and arrested her boyfriend.

She called Denison officers Casey Hunt and Donald Rhodes — both white — racists and an obscenity, according to police Lt. Mike Eppler.

“There’s no need to curse us and make a scene,” Police Chief Jay Burch wrote in a fiery Facebook post that drew 4,500 responses within hours.

“Just let us know you don’t want us there and we’ll go somewhere else.”

The officers were eventually served. But they said a manager told them, “I don’t get into politics.”

By midafternoon Saturday, officials of San Antonio-based Whataburger said they terminated an employee and would be retraining the managers. They also plan to apologize personally.

“Whataburger truly appreciates our law enforcement and their efforts to protect and serve our communities,” the company responded.

But Burch left his accusation posted as angry comments mounted.

At least a dozen fast-food workers nationwide have been fired for discriminating against police in uniform solely because of their occupation, but few lately.

According to Washington-based Gallup, public confidence in police is restored after a low ebb following 2014 police killings in Missouri and New York. About 57 percent of Americans polled trust police.

But only 8 miles across the state line from Denison, the police chief in Colbert, Okla., was forced to resign last month after videos were found connecting him to a Denison-based neo-Nazi skinhead group.

At the Denison police station, officers reviewed video and audio Saturday of the arrest involving the worker’s boyfriend. It was routine, Burch said.

His Facebook comment sounded off against not only the vengeful employee but also “national media” and “police hate groups” along with Whataburger and the manager.

“Rest assured officers will no longer patronize this business,” he wrote, but “I guarantee you when they call 9-1-1 and need us, we’ll come running.”

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Kevin Lawrence, an officer for 22 years in suburban Houston, now leads the Texas Municipal Police Association.

He said police don’t worry about being served as much as about what they’re served.

“If somebody doesn’t want to serve us, will they do something to the food?” he said.

If you have a complaint about an officer, he said: “Take it to the police station. Take it to the sheriff. Take it to the district attorney. Take it to the Texas Rangers. Take it to the FBI.”

Just don’t take it out on our devoted police.


(c)2017 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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