Warren County Sheriff’s Capt. Tim Robinson had planned to finish his end-of-the-work-day lunch break Friday by joining some friends for an early afternoon showing of “Wonder Woman” at Bowling Green's Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 when he was turned away for wearing his gun.
Wearing a Class B uniform – the type of uniform with a badge embroidered on a polo-style shirt – Robinson entered the theater with friends, including some children who were looking forward to seeing the show. He was met by an employee who told him company policy forbids off-duty law enforcement officers from wearing guns into the theater.
He explained he was on his lunch break until 4:30 p.m. The employee responded by saying he could stand in the lobby until that time but still had to remove his gun before going into the theater.
“I got refused service at a movie theater,” Robinson said. He said he was “flabbergasted.”
“Really and truly, if I had not been a party to it, I would never have believed it would happen in Bowling Green,” he said.
Robinson explained the theater’s company policy does not trump state and federal law, both of which allow on- and off-duty officers to carry guns at all times. A new state law has a penalty phase that begins next month for businesses that deny officers the right to wear their guns.
“I tried to explain to them that a company policy does not override state and federal law,” he said. “They stood by their policy so I went outside and I removed my gun and shirt and went back in to watch the movie.”
An assistant manager who answered the phone Saturday morning at the theater said he couldn’t comment on the incident and referred questions to a general manager who was not on duty. He declined to take down a name and phone number for the general manager to return a phone call and instead instructed a reporter to call back at a later time and ask for “Meg.”
A Regal Entertainment Group spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call or email seeking comment.
Robinson didn’t want his friends to miss out on the movie, so he went to his car, took off his uniform shirt and wore the white T-shirt that he had on underneath his uniform shirt into the theater.
Robinson felt wearing the shirt with the badge on it could have potentially made him a target of violence from someone with strong anti-police sentiment.
“If I’m wearing my official (uniform) I should be in a capacity where I am able to do my job and being unarmed I’m not going to be able to do that,” he said.
When the public sees an officer in uniform, on or off duty, the public expects that officer to be able to respond to anything, he said.
After he sat through the movie, he was approached by an employee who told him employees, including management on duty at the time, had misinterpreted their company policy.
“You don’t always see law enforcement officers in a polo shirt watching a movie,” he said. “I understand that.
“I don’t believe anyone in the movie theater had any ill will toward police or me personally. I think it was just a misunderstanding of a company rule.”