'It's been very emotional' says David Harris of Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q about recent allegations
No employees were singing “F--- The Police” to Raleigh officers while they ate at Smithfield’s Chicken ’n Bar-B-Q on Friday, despite claims by an organization that represents Raleigh police officers, the restaurant owner and his attorney said at a press conference Wednesday.
Raleigh Police Department Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown also released a statement Wednesday concurring with the owner, David Harris, and his attorney Mark O’Mara.
Harris and O’Mara spoke at the restaurant at 4000 Jones Sausage Road. The conflict was sparked Friday after the Raleigh Police Protective Association wrote a Facebook post sarcastically thanking the restaurant for its “class and professionalism as you sang ‘F- the police’ as my brothers at Raleigh Police Department attempted to eat at your restaurant. The manager sang along as well. Do you really feel that was appropriate?”
On Wednesday, Deck-Brown said two officers saw one employee make eye contact with them and mouth the words “F--- the Police.”
“There was no singing. There were no other employees involved,” Deck-Brown said. “Because of the subtle nature of this act, it was not witnessed by anyone else in the store.”
After looking at video, Harris and O’Mara and others could find no evidence that employees were singing at the police or even speaking with them during the nearly half-hour they were in the restaurant.
O’Mara said the officers in the restaurant contacted a friend who then posted what turned out to be an incorrect account of what happened on Facebook.
“Now, you know, 400,000 hits later, we are the company that doesn’t like cops,” O’Mara said.
According to O’Mara, the interaction between the employee and the two officers happened while the officers were at the counter.
After getting their food and eating their meal, the officers went to speak with a manager about their encounter, O’Mara said. The manager apologized, but the officers said they wanted to talk to the owner, Harris’ co-franchisee at the Jones Sausage store, Willie McKennies.
The manager gave the officers a number, but McKennies was at another store working and did not pick up the first two phone calls from the officers, O’Mara said.
The officers and McKennies did talk eventually, but before then one of the officers contacted a friend, a detective, and the story eventually made its way to social media, O’Mara said.
“It was embellished, and all of a sudden it was a bunch of officers and they were singing, none of which the initial officers said,” O’Mara said.
In an interview Saturday, Raleigh Police Protective Association President Matthew Cooper, who shared the Facebook post, said, “This is something that, unfortunately, officers have to deal with now on a regular basis.”
The association’s post went up at 8:33 p.m. on Friday. Within three hours Harris posted an apology and promised to investigate and “terminate anyone employed that doesn’t share our RESPECT of ALL law enforcement.” He said Wednesday that one employee who was asked about his involvement in the incident has quit.
The post on the association’s page was later deleted. A new post went up Wednesday acknowledging the mistake and encouraging officers to continue dining at Smithfield’s.
“There was an investigation conducted, and while there were inappropriate comments made by an employee of the restaurant, not all the information in the post was accurate,” the association said.
Harris has worked for Smithfield’s for 24 years and owned the restaurant on Jones Sausage with McKennies since it opened 17 years ago. The restaurant has a Garner address but is in the city of Raleigh.
Since news broke on the issue, Harris said he has been deeply hurt by the portrayal of his restaurant.
“I’m very frustrated with the way we were cast,” he said.
Harris said he has a long-standing relationship with the police department and hopes it will continue. The store has already put up words of support on its sign out front and said it will do more in the coming weeks.