Belleville, IL – On New Year’s Day, a complaining Denny’s patron managed to get five on-duty plainclothes detectives kicked out of the eatery for having their firearms. Detectives are not required to be in uniform. A badge, radio, and gun are typical fixtures of a police officer. It’s how officers manage to protect and serve. They undergo strenuous and ongoing firearm training as part of their job.
The detectives were eating at the restaurant when manager David Rice approached their table and told one of the detectives that she had to take her weapon out to her car or leave. No guns allowed. The officers refused to stow their guns and began to leave when they realized he wasn’t joking.
Belleville Police Captain Don Sax explained that another manager, Michael Van, advised Rice that it was acceptable for the officers to stay with their firearms. Rice attempted to rescind his ultimatum, but, at that point, the officers were too mortified to stay.
The L.A. Times quotes Denny’s Corp. spokeswoman, Liz DiTrapano, explaining away the incident as a simple mistake. “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 apologies came a little too late for the offended Belleville Police Department officers. Despite the efforts of a Denny’s general manager, the police department’s chief has banned on-duty and off-duty officers from returning to the restaurant.
Police Chief William Clay said:
“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.”
Officers are allowed by federal provisions to carry their firearms at all times while on and off duty across state lines, yet they can be pitched from a diner within the state they serve.
The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) H.R. 218 is a United States federal law, enacted in 2004, that allows two classes of persons, the “qualified law enforcement officer” and the “qualified retired law enforcement officer,” to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any state or local law to the contrary, with certain exceptions. The LEOSA-qualified person does not require a state-issued permit for carrying concealed firearms.