Why do police officers get free coffee at diners? When did this tradition start, or is it all just hearsay?

Why do police officers get free coffee at diners? When did this tradition start, or is it all just hearsay?

You can check the answer of the people under the question at Quora “places to get free coffee

0 thoughts on “Why do police officers get free coffee at diners? When did this tradition start, or is it all just hearsay?”

  1. I have owned many cafes in Australia (diners in the US) and free-coffee for cops was always my policy. It is not an across the board policy with all cafe owners here, but I suspect that more cafes give it away for free than charge. I know that McDonalds in Australia adopts this free-coffee policy for cops, in fact they offer it to fireman and ambulance people as well.
    From a cafe/diner owner’s perspective, the free-coffee policy is mostly about protection from crime. i.e. your cafe/diner will be less of a criminal target with cops sitting inside and a cop car parked outside than it would be otherwise … or better still, if you call for assistance they know who you are and are generally quick to respond. Enhancing this protection for less than 30c a cup in cost, just makes good business sense. Other motives for the free-coffee policy from an owner’s perspective include:

    * just being neighborly with other (often late night) community service providers. Cafes/diners eventually morph, in customers minds at least, from commercial enterprises into public utilities so you build a sort of kinship with…

  2. As a former employee of a convenience store chain (won’t name which one, but I’m sure nearly everyone in the US has visited one of them), I was told to give free coffee to all first responders, not just police.
    The reason was, we called these first responders a LOT. I lost track of how many times I had to make a phone call because some idiot walked out with a six-pack without paying, or got rowdy because the coolers were locked after 2am. I once had to call in a ‘disturbance’ when two little old ladies got in an argument over who was first in line for Lotto tickets, and they started nailing each other with their handbags.
    The company reasoning was simple: these folks put their lives on the line, and a cup of coffee (shoot, a whole pot) was a cheap and easy thank you.
    The practical upshot was that I could usually count on a policeman parking in the store parking lot to do paperwork (and thus be handy if something went down) rather than be someplace else. He got fresh refills while writing reports, I got an absence of local riffraff for a couple of hours.
    In a few stores, we had a full service deli with a dining section – the store where the cops came to hold impromptu meetings (and target practice on the Lethal Enforcers video game) was a lot easier to work nights than the one on Frat Row, where we dealt with drunken college students every weekend after the clubs closed.

  3. I read many answeres that addressed the ‘why’ part of the question. I think I can shed a light on how did this tradition might have started.
    I find that in most cases people in smaller towns, specially older people, have great respect for certain professions that are seemed as very valuable to the general public, and these usually are the town doctor, the law enforcer and the teacher, and the clergtyman (there are variations, but these seem to be the main core). These people are main totems of community care. They’re the caretakers, really. People in these small communities really defer to these caretakers and, in turn, people take care of them too. Having a sick medic when there’s only one could be fatal, and having a sleepy sheriff is bad news all around.
    There were a lot of perks in these professions, but here’s the thing, getting perks actually made them more reliable, thanks to a virtuous cycle. Being pampered and looked up to from their community made them feel special, but it is also a reminder to the huge responsability they hold over the town.
    I can only speak for some small communities in Mexico, but I’d be willing to bet this happens more or less universally across most small towns.
    This spirit continues as communities grew larger, though, of course, since a bigger town needs more people, deference and status waters down a little, but it still holds weight with people on these possitions of responsability.
    Now, I believe that a lack of deference/status can be harmful to a community, even large ones. Again, using my own experience: In Mexico people don’t really respect law officers. The causal chain is unclear, maybe they lost respect after they became perceived as deeply corrupt or maybe they became deeply corrupt due to a lack of status. Regardless of where it started, this vicious circle has continued and now I cannot name a single person I know that could really trust an unknown federal agent, for example. The system almost expects them to break the law and take bribes. They are feared, but it’s not the same as respect, and the difference shows.
    I lived in the US for some years and still, every time I visit, it amazes me the amount of respect police officers are confered. I would actually feel safe walking up to a policeman at night with questions/concerns. There is corruption in US police daprtments, but I couldn’t believe it would run as deeply as it currently is ingrained in Mexican law enforncement institutions.
    Opposite to that, there’s the example of Scandinavian teachers. I have read some articles that describe how valued teachers are there. They are highly qualified, go through a hard certification process and they get paid very handsomely. They receive a lot of status. And so far it’s been working wonders for their education system and overall education levels. In Mexico teachers get very poor wages, and wanting to teach children is almost frowned upon (“You could do something better with your life.”).
    In summary, people in certain caretaking possitions are confered with status, respect and perks, which, in turn tends to work out best for the whole community.
    So give away your cheap coffee.

  4. One of the movies i saw as a kid was “Serpico”, about an honest cop in a dishonest environment. That movie had a strong impact on me.
    I felt very uncomfortable getting free meals or coffee. Sometimes the shop owner would get upset if I tried to pay. In those cases, I left the check amount in a charity jar at the counter, or I paid someone else’s check, or left it as a tip.
    I got paid pretty well as a police officer. I could afford my meals. I got free coffee in the squad room at the station.
    And I would respond to emergencies at any location, whether they offered free coffee or not. There were some places I would not go to for a meal just because it wasn’t worth begging the owner to let me pay. In most cases they meant well, but there was an expectation as well, and I wasn’t willing to cross that line.
    Just me. Maybe I took it to extremes, but I felt better paying my own way.

  5. In Canada, they don’t. Or at least, they are not supposed to. Policy forbids public servants from taking any gifts in relation to their service.
    I know it seems like a draconian rule, but it’s about protecting the integrity of a member against allegations of impropriety or conflict of interest.

  6. Sometimes merchants just like having police frequent their business. It is extra security they didn’t have to pay for, and if the officer frequents the place, criminals would think twice before robbing the place.

  7. I don’t mind accepting a cup of coffee from a place that does it as a courtesy to be nice, but some places only do it as sort of a bribe to keep the police around to deter crime. I will not accept anything free from these places. They would do better to ask the sheriff for an extra patrol order.

  8. It’s not just police that get free coffee. Some places give coffee gratis to security officers too. When I gas up the patrol vehicle,I sometimes grab a cup
    Heck, one time I was even on my way to work and stopped in at a completely random gas station to get a cup. Since I was on my way to work I was in uniform. Boom free coffee. I had every intention of paying, but the girl behind the counter said store policy was everyone in uniform gets free coffee.

  9. You do see this happen occasionally, but it is policy in our department to not accept free items from anyone, public or business owner.
    That said, while I can’t take something for free, I also can’t control what you, as the business owner, charge me for it. So if you want to give me a discount cup of coffee, I’m okay with that, but please let me pay.

  10. It was explained to me that the presence of the police at a business was perceived as a crime deterrent. Offering the police a refill on their coffee adds a sense of security to the establishment, and therefore increases the appeal to patrons.

  11. My answer is different from the ones related to courtesy. In my opinion it’s an investment. You never know when the person calling 911 might be your wife, son, or mother. If you can increase the performance of the officer that might potentially respond, or respond to someone who you don’t even know, you do it. Especially considering coffee isn’t extremely expensive.

    Eight O’Clock

  12. I never take what may amount to a gratuity, however I do accept coffee or pop because of a conversation I had with the owner of an establishment years ago.

    He told me, I don’t tell you how to do your job and you don’t tell me how to run my business. Thank you for your service.

  13. This is something which happens often but is not standard. It differs from diner to diner and precinct to precinct. My grandfather and brother were both policemen. The more often a police officer drops by especially in a high crime neighborhood the less likely it is to get robbed.

    Victor Allen’s

  14. The answers above seem to answer the question quite correctly. I think is interesting to note that cops gravitate towards a certain type of dining establishment, typically a diner.
    They are looking for a place not only where they can get a free coffee and donut, but where they are genuinely welcome. Although they could most likely get free coffee at various fast food or chain restaurants, you just don’t see that as much.
    My theory is that they are looking for someone to talk with, not just saving a buck on some joe. The teenage at McDonalds taking 25 seconds to take an order is not likely the social interaction that these guys are seeking.

  15. I don’t think it’s a good policy, with some overtime many cops make 100K/year (SoFla) and can afford to buy their $1 coffee.
    And “enhanced” service due to free stuff it how the mob offers stores protection. Some places maybe feel inclined that they should get free food to and not have to wait in line etc. On lunch break cops are citizens like everyone else and preferred treatment just create a system: them vs us.

  16. I’ve worked in a few coffee shops that gave cops free coffee. There’s two main reasons that I’ve experienced:

    As Richard mentions, there’s the idea that cops will go places where they get special treatment, and that there will be less crime near businesses that cops frequent. I had a boss that said this, flat out.
    I’ve also worked at places where the attitude was that any public servant should be thanked with free coffee (giving away drip coffee is pretty darn cheap in the long run). So firefighters and some city employees got free coffee as well.
    I’ve also served cops that refused to take free coffee, as it is, apparently (and logically) illegal. I personally feel that they shouldn’t get free coffee. Incentivizing cops to pay more attention to a specific neighborhood seems really dangerous. But, I took on the policy of wherever I was working.

  17. More often because they are regulars. Also, if they’re beat cops, they’re usually doing you – as an employee or business owner – a favor by patronizing your establishment. Just their presence where you work keeps some of the unsavory types at bay. Plus, a lot of cops are nice folks and a cup of coffee – which costs very little to the business owner – is a way of saying thanks.



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