ATHENS, Ala. - Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said he met with management at Taco Bell on U.S. 72 near Interstate 65 after an incident on Saturday, January 7. The officer's visit to the restaurant has garnered lots of comment on social media because of what apparently didn't happen.
Chief Johnson said the officer went for lunch at Taco Bell, and waited alone at the counter for about five minutes. He left after not receiving service.
"The officer did not make a scene and simply opted to eat lunch elsewhere," Chief Johnson said.
A citizen posted about the incident on Facebook, and other social media users shared it and asked the public to boycott the restaurant.
Chief Johnson said he learned about the social media comments on Sunday, January 8. He said he talked with the officer and went to Taco Bell to meet with managers and review security video footage.
“The managers were apologetic and are conducting their own investigation into the incident,” Chief Johnson said. “At this time, it appears one member of staff may have seen the officer but did not acknowledge him. I do appreciate Taco Bell’s managers meeting with me and working to address the issue on their end. On behalf of the Athens Police Department, I am satisfied with allowing Taco Bell’s managers to address this incident with their staff.”
WHNT News 19 requested a statement from the restaurant chain. They issued the following:
"Taco Bell and Tacala, the franchise owner of the Athens, Alabama Taco Bell, are deeply appreciative of law enforcement and would in no way endorse or accept behavior that would discriminate against them, or anyone else for that matter. Upon thorough investigation of surveillance video and employee statements, the franchisee has concluded that all four team members and the manager were in the kitchen area getting ready for the lunch rush and could not see the front counter, which is a lapse in protocol. Tacala has begun re-training its staff on proper customer service, and it has formally apologized to the police department for the misunderstanding."
Tacala, based in Vestavia Hills, made headlines back in July when two Lee County deputies were denied service at a Phenix City Taco Bell. Sheriff Jay Jones said the cashier told deputies she wasn't going to serve them because of the uniforms that they were wearing. That employee was fired, and Tacala apologized directly to the sheriff's office.
Chief Johnson wants to make clear: this was a misunderstanding, and he is not accusing the store or its employees of refusing service to an officer.