BELLEVILLE — Police Chief William Clay lifted a ban on officers taking a meal or coffee break at the Denny's Restaurant on South Illinois Street following a meeting with a Denny's executive Thursday.
Clay imposed the ban as a result of an incident New Year's Day where a detective was asked to remove her gun or leave the restaurant.
On Friday, the restaurant will offer free meals to Belleville police officers. "We'll be happy to take care of them," general manager Mike Van said.
Police Capt. Don Sax said Van Catchings, director of company operations for Denny's, met with administrators at the police department Thursday.
Sax said Catchings was sincerely apologetic for the actions taken by restaurant management. Catchings conveyed these actions were inconsistent with Denny's corporate policy, which welcomes any law enforcement officer to carry their weapon while inside their restaurants, according to Sax.
Clay said he's a fan of social media, but sometimes it puts "an issue in the public domain that should be resolved in private face-to-face meetings."
Word about the incident involving the Belleville police detectives circulated rapidly Tuesday and Wednesday on social media sites such as Facebook.
"Denny's on South Illinois is a Belleville business. They pay sales tax and provide employment for many Belleville residents," Clay said in a released statement. "I have patronized Denny's in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I harbor no grudges. This was an unfortunate incident by an individual employee; it has been made right."
Five on-duty detectives, wearing plain clothes, were eating about 10 a.m. Tuesday when restaurant manager David Rice approached and advised a female detective that she needed to take her weapon, which was visible to patrons, out to her car or leave the restaurant, Sax said.
Rice was advised by the detectives that they were on-duty Belleville police detectives. Sax said the manager notified them company policy dictates only officers in uniform may have weapons.
Sax said the detectives advised the manager they would not leave weapons outside while on duty and left the restaurant without finishing their meal or paying for their food.
Denny's Corp. spokeswoman Liz DiTrapano said Wednesday, "Denny's policy permits law enforcement officials to carry their firearms in the restaurant, and we regret any misunderstanding."
Mayor Mark Eckert said he's pleased the matter has been resolved. "Everybody seems satisfied with Denny's response," he said. "It was unfortunate that it happened. I think everything got worked out accordingly."
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