Opinion

Counterpoint – No One Seems All that Upset About Cops Being Refused Service

While the Philadelphia Starbucks kerfuffle-turned-federal crime may continue to evolve, it still warrants a comment. But first, a disparity cries out for an explanation. Two guys, for whatever reason, get kicked out of a Pennsylvania restaurant and liberals are outraged. Two cops are assassinated in a Florida restaurant, and the left is silent. Yes, the same left that is, once again, piqued with fake outrage. And I’ll admit there are also some on the right condemning the customers without all the facts. Let’s take a breath and do some critical thinking about the incident.

From what I have gathered from news reports, the two men entered the restaurant, did not place an order, and took a table. When one or both asked to use the restroom, they were told that the restroom was for paying customers. They returned to the table. The manager came over and asked if she could get them anything: coffee or water. They said no and told her they had water bottles already. The manager said the tables were for paying customers. The men said they were waiting for a third person to join them.

I’ve since heard reports that the person they were waiting for had offered to buy the men coffee during a business meeting they were supposed to be attending. According to the New York Daily News, the manager then told the men if they weren’t going to order they would have to leave. Reportedly, the men refused and the manager called the police.

Incidentally, I recently went to a popular, local breakfast café with a cop friend of mine. I put my name on a waitlist for two while waiting for my friend. When they called my name, they wouldn’t even seat me until he was in the restaurant, nevermind not serve me (I would have ordered at least coffee while waiting). I was not offended. It was simply a business decision.

I know the socialist left doesn’t like it, but people are in business to make money. They were busy and needed to seat people who were ready to buy stuff. That’s how they pay their employees and feed their kids. Anyway, the police responded and, as reported by WPVI, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, “I can tell you that that police officer did not want to have to make an arrest in that incident. The whole thing, we just wish it didn’t happen.” That tells me something is being downplayed in news reports: The men refused lawful orders to leave. In fact, they must have refused at least twice. First, the manager told them to leave and second, they refused police orders to leave—I’ve heard three times—forcing the cops to arrest them.

I’ve been in similar situations often, so I will offer myself as an expert on, if not that specific incident (since I wasn’t there), at least incidents like it. First, here are my Seattle, Starbucks, coffee, and cop credentials:

Starbucks is a coffee company founded and based in Seattle. I worked in Seattle as a police officer for over two decades. Having worked a law enforcement career in the hyper-caffeinated Emerald City, I certainly qualify as a Starbucks “expert.” And, as a cop, I am a de facto coffee “expert” (hey, watch those donut cracks). So, having established my Seattle/coffee/cop bona fides, let’s discuss this ludicrous assertion that Starbucks Coffee is a racist company that hates black people and hires bigots.

Are you kidding me? Starbucks? Racist? The company that put those obsequious, virtue-signaling comments on their cups a while back, is racist? Starbucks has long been known as one of the most liberal companies on the planet. Starbucks is also well known for its social justice stances on, well, just about everything. Hell, they even publicized they didn’t want people like me—concealed gun carriers—in their stores.

Apparently, whatever liberally run businesses do is never enough for the far-left. It can’t be, can it? If racism—as they define it—ends, so does their advocacy and, more importantly, their revenue stream. Increasingly, the left is not satisfied with only attacking the right. Now, they are targeting people on their own team who they feel are not left enough.

Even though only one store manager out of thousands, at only one Starbuck’s store out of thousands, may have acted improperly (you’d have to know her mind to be sure), suddenly an entire leftist corporate entity has its head on the proverbial chopping block—and the even “lefter,” perhaps, the most “leftest,” ideologues are holding the social justice guillotine lanyard.

I’m going to shift now and wrestle this issue from a different angle. From what I’ve learned to date, the manager may very well have treated those men in that Philly Starbuck’s poorly (who among us hasn’t been treated poorly on occasion?), and it might have been due to their race. Or maybe partly due to their race. But it might not have been, too.

As I mentioned, this type of incident requires critical thinking rather than unconsidered reactions. It seems that so often judgments are made without thinking a situation through. This was an incident involving real human beings, not exaggerated caricatures. Since it’s Philadelphia, a large, mixed-race metropolis (41 percent white and 43 percent black) of a million and a half people, I’d guess there was a racially diverse clientele in the store at the time.

Still, a business decides who it will and won’t serve based on their behavior. Has anyone asked if there were other minorities, other black people, in the store at the time who had made purchases and were not booted? Were there any white people occupying tables who hadn’t made purchases but were allowed to stay? Shouldn’t we know?

I’ve gone to hundreds of “trespass” calls during my career. In similar circumstances, I’d ask the manager to brief me. In this case, she’d say the people had come in, did not make a purchase, and were taking up table space that should be available for paying customers. She’d tell me the company policy is to allow only paying customers to occupy seats in the restaurant.

That’s all I’d need. I’m not there to debate political views; I’m there to enforce the law. I didn’t have a crystal ball with which I could divine her “true” intent, according to the left—allegedly, racism. Maybe she was kicking them out because they were black—and not buying anything. Without her explicitly saying something overtly racist, I couldn’t know her “secret” intent.

In other words, without being able to read her mind, or without a witness who’d heard her say she was calling the police because of their race, I couldn’t legally act on a specific complaint of racism. They can’t truly argue denial of services because they were offered services and refused. That was the problem.

Anyone who thinks about this incident with intellectual honesty knows this is how it has to be. You simply can’t arrest people because you somehow “know” they kicked people out of their business because of their race. They may believe it; it may even be true, but you need evidence to prove it.

So, I’d explain the situation to the gentlemen from the police perspective, including the store policy as explained by the manager. When they argued they were waiting for another person to arrive before ordering, I’d tell them that explanation sounded reasonable, but I don’t own or manage the store. If the manager doesn’t want you in here because she’s alleging you violated a store policy, as she interprets it, we have to act. The cops can’t guess about her “true” intent or tell her the store policy sucks. We have to deal with facts.

I’d continue: I’d say the manager or owner explained their policy to me, and your “waiting for someone” doesn’t mitigate that you haven’t bought anything, and you were occupying a table. And, presumably, other paying customers were waiting for seats. I’d further explain that the way to handle the situation is to leave the restaurant and then, if you want, call Starbuck’s, the ACLU, the NAACP, the National Guard, or whoever to complain about your perceived poor treatment. It’s never okay to disobey lawful orders from the police.

The thing is, these guys, who seem like otherwise decent people from what I’ve read, refused orders from the police to leave. The cops don’t get to make their own interpretations of a business’ policies. Technically, the men were trespassing after the manager asked them to leave and they wouldn’t. And they were officially trespassing after the cops told them to leave and they refused.

And what happens when you don’t do what the cops have a legal right to tell you to do? You go to jail. What other option is there? Just let lawbreakers go when they don’t agree with a particular law?

Now, if getting arrested to make a political point is your intent—civil disobedience—then fine. But don’t cry about getting arrested. I don’t remember MLK grumbling after being arrested for civil disobedience. Getting arrested was the point. Was it in this case? I don’t know. Only those men know. I can’t read their minds, either.

The other aspect of this issue that strikes me is the double-standard (yet another) on the left. Everyone has read about the many instances of businesses refusing to serve police officers. I’m trying to recall anyone on the left coming to the defense of the cops or condeming those businesses. I’m sure there were a few, but the din was not deafening.

How many stories are there about businesses refusing to serve cops? Plenty. Recently, I wrote about a coffee shop in Oakland that was refusing to serve law enforcement officers—as policy.

(Credit: Facebook/Fox News)

In 2015, the New York Times reported, “Incidents in the last three months at a Jimmy John’s in Minnesota, a Chuck E. Cheese in Bowling Green, Ky., a Whataburger in Lewisville, Tex., and a Starbucks in Philadelphia, followed a similar pattern. Police officers were denied service in some form—food, access to restrooms—by employees.” A Starbucks in Philly. Denied access to restrooms. Sound familiar? But the “victims” were only cops, so it doesn’t count, right?

Now, a billion-dollar company will close thousands of stores and politically indoctrinate thousands of employees in the left’s sanctioned notion of social justice and race relations. I have not heard that even one high-profile—or low-profile—black conservative will be included in the “training.” Hell, some black liberals don’t even want Jewish liberals included in the training.

And the last facet: Some employee of nearly every store in America has at some time mistreated a person in their store of all races, ethnicities, cultures, etc. I know an officer who told me a Starbucks barista he’s known for a long time asked him his opinion about body cameras. He told her about them including some of the negatives, like filming people in compromising positions who are not involved in the incident.

Another barista, not in the conversation, suddenly berated the officer for his solicited opinion and said she’d rather take a chance on being filmed naked than “let cops get away with what they do.” Last I heard, the incident was being investigated. Oh, not the barista’s behavior, but the cop’s! And there was no fake—or real—outrage from the left and no court had infused that officer’s bank account with any additional zeros at the end of his balance.

I have to ask again: Why, when a black person feels he or she has been treated poorly, is it due to racism every single time?

A presumption of racism is nearly as ugly as racism—it comes from the same dark place. When I think of all the reasons one person may dislike another person, race is only one element of many possibilities. The assumption of racism shows the insidious nature of the leftist’s daily race-baiting indoctrination of a community they say they exist to help.

You know what? Maybe I am “privileged,” after all. As a mostly white guy, I have the luxury of knowing that if I’m treated poorly by anyone, a conservative, a libertarian, or even by a liberal Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, or a black activist, it’s because the server is, or I am, simply being a jerk! Which, I’m guessing, is usually the case in the vast majority of these instances.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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