Starbucks has issued a public apology following an incident in which a group of police officers was asked to leave after a customer allegedly complained about feeling “unsafe.”
Six officers from the Tempe Police Department in Arizona went into a Starbucks on July 4 for coffee, according to a statement issued by the Tempe Officers Association, and were approached by a barista. The Starbucks employee then told the officers them a customer “did not feel safe” in their presence.
“The barista asked the officers to move out of the customer’s line of sight or to leave,” the association said, adding that the officers ultimately left the store “disappointed.”
The episode caused outrage across the nation and launched a boycott of the coffee shop chain.
“This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening. While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019.”
The Association later posted a graphic with the likeness of a Starbucks logo that said “Dump Starbucks” and showed a hand dumping a cup of coffee.
“We take offense with Starbucks at McKellips & Scottsdale Rds for asking our Tempe Officers to leave the establishment on July 4th after paying for coffee and taking a pause while working to protect the freedom so many take for granted…like enjoying a holiday with friends and family,” the caption read. “Several of those officers asked to leave are veterans who fought for this country.”
The graphic also included the hashtag #DumpStarbucks and the sign-off, “Zero Respect…”
Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams issued an apology to the Tempe Police Department on Saturday, calling the barista’s request “totally unacceptable.”
“On behalf of Starbucks, I want to sincerely apologize to you all for the experience that six of your officers had in our store on July 4,” Williams wrote in a letter addressed to Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir, via a Starbucks press release.
“When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees). Instead, they were made to feel unwelcome and disrespected, which is completely unacceptable.”
Williams added in the letter that “what occurred in our store on July 4 is never the experience your officers or any customer should have, and at Starbucks, we are already taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.”
She also noted that Starbucks has hosted several “Coffee with a Cop” events in Tempe stores, “which bring residents and police together to discuss relevant issues and find common ground.”
“At Starbucks, we have deep appreciation for your department and the officers who serve the Tempe community,” Williams concluded her missive. “Our partners rely on your service and welcome your presence, which keeps our stores and the community a safe and welcoming place.”
The Tempe Police Department wrote in a tweet that the incident “has been an opportunity to work together to strengthen our communal relationship.”
‘Shame on That Store’
Former Navy Seal Salvatore DeFranco and his wife, Dana DeFranco, who both own and operate the Battle Grounds Coffee chain, had strong words of rebuke for those who subjected the Tempe officers to such degrading treatment.
“These are men and women who serve and protect our communities every single day. For someone to say they didn’t feel safe around them is ludicrous,” Salvatore DeFranco said, according to Law Enforcement Today.
Dana DeFranco, who according to the publication supervises the operations at the couple’s cafes, said the problem should have been handled completely differently.
“You’re going to kick out five protectors because you have one person who can’t handle reality? Shame on that store. If that happened in our business, not a single one of those officers would have had a bill… and we would have kicked out the complainer,” she said.
Salvatore DeFranco, who was in a coma after suffering an accident while on duty, had a few words to say about the incident.
“When I was a Navy SEAL, we learned about brotherhood. We learned about service. We learned about dedication. We learned about TOUGHNESS,” he said. “Men before us… and men and women today… run into the fight to protect those who can’t protect themselves. And you’re going to be triggered by the sight of a protector? Give me a break. Get over yourself.”