For a cup of coffee, a kingdom was lost

Today I read an online article from the New York Post about a Dunkin Donuts employee refusing to serve to NYPD officers because they were cops. Local Police Union officials called for a boycott and hope it goes nationwide. More and more we read about instances like this. One gym refuses to allow police to join their membership. Parts of society feel they don’t need police officers and would prefer not to have them around.

I have to laugh. I know what is going to happen. Every police officer knows what’s going to happen. It is going to happen nationwide and get worse long before it improves.

Back in late 1984 I was a strapping young buck, fleet of foot and dashing in my ways. I worked as a new police officer in a district that was very diverse. We had gangs and wealthy people, blue collar homes and housing projects. There was a great night life and many residences. There was plenty to keep you interested as a young cop without feeling overwhelmed. At the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Addison, there is a Dunkin Donuts. During the day, there were several grey-haired ladies who worked the counter. By the way, they actually made the donuts in the shop back then. There was always a crowd for lunch and coffee. People loved their soups. It was too crowded for us back then so we usually went elsewhere during daylight hours.

The owner was no fool. He understood the neighborhood. He recruited girls from the local high schools to work evenings and midnights. He wanted the police officers to frequent his store so these girls were very cute. Because of these cute girls, there was always a squad going in and out for a cup and a visit. This had been his practice for years. For the price of a cup of coffee, he had armed security. We did nothing wrong. We get to have lunch and take a personal break like everyone else.

Even on nights when it was too busy to stop in you would see squads drive through the parking lot and shine their spot light inside to say hello. People in the area knew it was a safe after-hours place for a cup of coffee, donut or bowl of soup. The owner’s business prospered and he made money. The officers grew protective of the girls and made sure they were safe. I know that often they would get a ride home at the end of their work shift if they needed it.

It wasn’t all lecherous old coppers drooling over the cute girls. The female officers in the district stopped in there too because they felt welcome and they became friends with the girls too. The bathrooms were clean and the coffee fresh. In the winter, it was nice to stop in for something warm and clean.

The location was centrally located. The streets at that intersection were fast at night. If something happened you could get to your job from Dunkin without much traffic. No one remembered that Dunkin store ever having trouble. Then one day the owner announced he was selling the store. He wanted to retire. I can appreciate that. He had put in many hard years and it was time to take it easy. He sold his store to a Pakistani immigrant who let the cute girls and old ladies go. He replaced them with his family members. Coffee was no longer free as he was quick to point out to us. The officers stopped dropping in. in a short time, word got around the district that we weren’t welcome and we all found new spots for a cup.

Well, I’m sure you know what happened next. Yep, in the first month after the store sold gunmen twice robbed them. Soon the regulars who would stop by at night found somewhere else safer to go. The people who started going in were not a friendly element and scared people away.

This was not a drive through store, so you had to park and go in. No one was going in after it got dark. Even though we all drove past it several times a tour it no longer was special to us. I stopped by several years later when I was working a detail. It was dirty, the washroom was filthy. I bought a cup of coffee and left. It has changed hands a couple times since then and was torn down and rebuilt with a drive through.

See the sad thing was this new owner didn’t understand what a deterrent the police were by being there. He didn’t understand we were good for business. We made him money by driving through his parking lot.

The fact was, we would have continued to frequent his business, but he no longer made us feel welcome. He treated us as a nuisance. We would have kept stopping in but there were other places that made us welcome.

Society is doing this to the police officers around our country. Not just in coffee shops but on every street. Parents are letting their children flip off passing squad cars. They are teaching their young that they don’t need to obey a police officer. Of course, when a store gets robbed or a car pulls up and shoots into a group of school kids on a corner the police are blamed for not have been proactive and preventing it.

This isn’t the first time the pendulum has swung this way. It seems that way for most of us but it has happened before. The pendulum will swing back the other way. It usually goes from one extreme to another.

Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union. He served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.

(Photo: Google Maps)