Des Moines, IA – The public information officer for the Des Moines Police Department was denied service at a Dunkin’ Donuts off-duty because he was wearing a Thin Blue Line baseball hat.
Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek told the story on KXNO on Aug 4 during his regular weekly “Ask 5-0” segment on the station’s morning show.
“Morning Rush” is co-hosted by Sgt. Parizek’s wife, Heather Burnside, according to WHO.
The sergeant said the incident occurred on Aug. 1 when he stopped to buy coffee and donuts for friends at the Dunkin’ Donuts located in the 1200-block of East 14th Street in Des Moines.
He said he goes to that specific store frequently in and out of uniform and has always been a good tipper.
“I thought we had a pretty good relationship going on,” Sgt. Parizek told KXNO.
He said he was off-duty and wearing plainclothes, a mask, and a Thin Blue Line hat on the day of the incident.
The sergeant said that he didn’t recognize the clerk at the counter, but she wasn’t the only employee in the store.
“She said ‘we’re not going to serve you today,’ and I thought she was joking,” he told KXNO.
“They knew exactly who I was,” Sgt. Parizek said. “I said ‘are you serious? What’s going on?’”
“She goes ‘we’re not going to serve you today and you need to leave,’” he told the radio show.
“I said ‘why?’ And she just kind looked up at my hat and stared at that for a sec and looked at me and said ‘we’re not serving you today,’” the sergeant recalled.
“And I thought man, this can’t be happening,” he added.
Sgt. Parizek told KXNO he was probably angrier about the way he was treated because he’s been a loyal customer for a long time.
“Nobody can guarantee me that they haven’t been doing something to the stuff I’ve been buying for the past few months,” the sergeant worried. “And that’s when I got really mad.”
He said he doesn’t actually drink coffee but that he has stopped in frequently to buy treats for friends and co-workers, including the morning team on “Morning Rush.”
Sgt. Parizek told KXNO that when he looked at the Facebook page of one of the employees involved in the incident, he became even more concerned.
He also said he was disappointed.
The sergeant said that the police department had the opportunity to distribute some cash into the community during the holidays thanks to “the generosity of one of our citizens,” and that several employees at the Dunkin’ Donuts location had been recipients of the gifts.
“It did sting knowing that not just myself, but my organization that I represent, has extended those courtesies to some of those employees and this is how they responded to us,” Sgt. Parizek told KXNO.
Dunkin’ Donuts released a statement that condemned the incident, WHO reported.
“We are aware of the incident that took place at the Dunkin’ restaurant, located at 1220 E 14th Street in Des Moines, IA. The employee’s behavior is not consistent with Dunkin’s goal of creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for all [of our] guests,” the statement read.
“Additionally, Dunkin’ respects the efforts of our police force as they work to maintain a safe community for all of us,” the statement continued. “The franchise owner, who independently owns and operates this restaurant, informs us that the two individuals responsible have been terminated. The franchise owner has also connected with the police officer to apologize for the experience.”
The sergeant said he wasn’t going to be advocating a Dunkin’ Donuts boycott but that he was going to make sure the law enforcement community knew what had happened at that location.
“I’m more interested in an explanation, and the explanation is that ‘they refused to serve you because you’re a racist cop.’ So yeah, I’m not going back,” he told KXNO. “That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to do business with a Dunkin’, but not going back to that one.”
Sgt. Parizek said he found the situation “very, very frustrating.”
“You can’t be so angry right now that tomorrow you can’t sit down and try to find a solution and compromise with someone who maybe has a different point of view with you,” he said. “And people need to really understand that because that’s what’s happening when we let these loud voices in these small groups of extremists take the stage from us.”
The Police Tribune attempted to reach the Dunkin’ Donuts location for comment, but nobody was answering the phone at the East 14th Street location on Friday.