The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Some pig controversy

Clovis police officer: Incident 'was out of spite and hate towards law enforcement'


August 18, 2019

David Grieder

Clovis Police Officer Timo Rosenthal said he had no idea the pig doodle on his sandwich wrapper would go viral.

CLOVIS - Timo Rosenthal wanted to try the "Bacon King" sandwich his rookie coworker had recommended. Instead, he encountered what he called "one of the darkest moments" of his law-enforcement career.

It is by now the pig doodle heard 'round the nation - a viral social media post summarizing Clovis Police Officer Rosenthal's experience at the Prince Street Burger King.

"When you order food in uniform," Rosenthal wrote on his Facebook caption below a photo of a cartoon pig face wearing a star badge. Rosenthal said the image was on his sandwich wrapper.

He initially took it in stride, Rosenthal said, amused at the cute "piggie" likeness. That perspective changed when he found burnt meat inside.

"At first I thought it was really comical, I even laughed and showed it to the rookie," he said in an interview Wednesday. "Then I opened the burger and saw that it wasn't a joke. It was out of spite and hate towards law enforcement."

Until that moment, Rosenthal said he was looking forward to that lunch with particular relish. The newly hired officer accompanying him that Thursday had started work only days earlier, and spoke glowingly of his experience with the bacon sandwich.

"He had gotten a Bacon King - the sandwich in question - and it looked fabulous. It looked amazing, and I told him, like, 'Yo, that's cool,'" Rosenthal said. "On Thursday (Aug. 8), he was my ridealong for the day and I was like, 'Let's go to Burger King for that amazing sandwich.'"

They were in uniform, in a marked police SUV, when they went through the drive-through line.

Each ordered the Bacon King, picked up their food from the window, paid and drove away to a parking lot to eat. Rosenthal said in hindsight there was nothing that stood out to him about his interaction with the Burger King attendants.

Rosenthal said his coworker also received a sandwich "of very poor quality," though his wrapper was without any swine illustrations.

"It's so hard for any law enforcement agency around the country to hire new officers, and there you have a brand new officer in his first week and he sees one of the darkest moments in your career."

Rosenthal continued: "Yeah, we deal with lots of dark and nasty stuff on the street, but when you realize that you can't even go to lunch and enjoy a burger..."

The patrol officer elected not to go back to the restaurant and make his complaint known there, but instead posted about his experience online - initially to his Snapchat, and then Facebook. He said he simultaneously submitted a complaint to the number on his receipt, and was contacted later that day by the restaurant's corporate representative apologizing.

"I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing me complaining. I figure that was their ultimate goal, to get me in there and maybe record me or whatever," he said. "Because again, we have to stay calm and collected and represent ourselves, the department and the city in a professional way. I figured it would be a little childish to go in and complain about the ($6) burger, and besides, we're busy."

Rosenthal said he intended his social media post for family and friends "because they don't understand sometimes the hate that we go through and the daily resentment that we experience from certain people." He said he "really had no idea that it would go this viral."

But viral it went. The post circulated widely overnight, and Rosenthal soon gave an interview to Fox & Friends. Within a week of the incident his Facebook post had over 4,000 comments.

Rosenthal said he has no doubt that his burger's presentation was meant as a deliberate insult. But he said he "was very happy to hear that Burger King took such swift action to react to the actions of a number of people."

Various media reported Burger King terminated up to five employees.

Rosenthal said he is glad employees were held accountable "like every law enforcement officer is being held accountable."

That said, he doesn't believe the actions of a few reflect the attitudes of Burger King overall. He said he's even more confident they don't reflect prevailing attitudes locally.

Two people who identified themselves as Clovis Burger King managers declined comment and referred questions on the incident to their corporate headquarters.

Derrick Young, from BK's corporate office, wrote in a text message that "We are and will continue to offer free meals to uniformed law enforcement officers."

Young said all additional questions had to be made through the company's media inquiry email contact. Those messages were not returned Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

Rosenthal said he was not aware of any Clovis officers receiving free meals from Burger King as of Thursday. Other business in Clovis had offered free or discounted meals to law enforcement in the past week and Rosenthal said that he had redeemed one as of Friday.

Comments on Rosenthal's Facebook were supportive and critical.

"Our community here in Clovis has been very supportive," he told The News. "Most of those hateful comments on Facebook ... most of those people are not from Clovis. They don't know me. They don't know anything about me. They just generalize."

Rosenthal said he is not bothered by the comments wishing him additional bad food experiences, calling him "triggered," doubling down on pig comparisons, or critiquing the work of police at large.

"I really don't value their opinion," he said of the critics. "In order for it to be hurtful, I would have to value their opinion."

Rosenthal said he was heartened the day after his fast-food experience, as his post had already picked up steam online, to hear positive feedback from a Clovis woman to whom he issued a traffic citation.

"I pulled over a lady for speeding and ... after we got done with all the paper she asked me, 'Aren't you the cop from Facebook?'" he said. "And she's like, 'It's really despicable, really horrible and unacceptable.'"

The pig doodle stands out from Rosenthal's other negative experiences while working, which he said are largely "not anything different from what any law enforcement officer experiences on a daily basis."

"When you report to calls and people just call you a racist, and the daily stuff we deal with ... These people really don't know me, and it's good to know that people who do know me know that I'm not a racist. I'm married to a black woman, and we've been married for almost seven years. So it's really interesting, especially when African-Americans call me racist without knowing my background, where I'm from, what I stand for."

Rosenthal's background is in the northern German city of Lubeck, an hour's drive from Hamburg. He came to the U.S. in 2011 with an exchange program and lived two years in New York City, where he met his wife, Tamara Mobley-Rosenthal. She was assigned to Cannon Air Force Base in 2013, and after a couple of years of Rosenthal working at the Curry County jail, he joined CPD.

"I think America has given me so many opportunities," he told The News. "That's the reason I became a citizen. I love what this country stands for, the freedoms this country provides, which are unmatched in any country in the world. Even in Germany you don't have the freedoms that this country provides. That's why I was always drawn to a job where I serve the community."

Rosenthal said he hoped to use the viral moment as an "opportunity to really try to bring into light the daily hatred and resentment" law-enforcement officers receive.

"We're all just humans, and our biggest wish or goal at the end of the day is to go home safe," he said. "A lot of people always forget that we're humans, too, and try to push our buttons."


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