When I say “doughnuts” I’m talking about Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Mister Doughnut, and all the independents. You can accept as fact that cops love doughnuts — but then so does everybody else.
The reason for cartoons showing two cops sitting car-to-car in front of a doughnut shop is that’s about the only place cops had to eat while on duty back in the forties and fifties. That’s how the legend of cops-and-doughnuts got started. Most cops walked foot-beats until the late fifties when patrol cars became more numerous in police inventories.
Doughnut shops were about the only place street cops could afford to eat. Many restaurants were too expensive for everyday meals. Fast-food stores didn’t come on the scene until the early sixties when McDonald’s and Hardee’s began showing up.
When fast-food stores started dishing out food, cops flocked to them. As good as doughnuts are, cops knew a more balanced meal is better — if you call a burger with fries balanced.
When gasoline service stations converted to convenience stores, cops started showing up there for mid-shift snacks. Convenience store operators started giving cops free coffee with the hope of encouraging them to come around more often. A police car in front of a business is a pretty good deterrent to crime.
Nowadays, free coffee is considered a no-no because of mandated police ethics regulations. In some jurisdictions, accepting even a small free goody can get a cop suspended. Some will get fired for accepting handouts. Much of this policy resulted from the public perception that free anything will unfairly encourage favors from law enforcement.
So, were food and beverage freebies good or bad? It no longer matters. Today they’re illegal in many jurisdictions.
Replacing the free meal today is the “police discount” which brings patrol cars to the parking lots of restaurants.
Mostly that’s a good thing.
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