The origin of a pop culture stereotype
From a lesson on how to properly consume a doughnut in “Police Academy 4,” to “The Simpsons”’ Chief Wiggum eating some of the sugary pastries off of his gun, popular culture reinforces the idea that police officers love doughnuts. But where and when did this stereotype begin?
As more police departments began using patrol cars, doughnut shops such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts, founded in 1937 and 1950 respectively, began cropping up around the nation. Until the 1950s, most police officers had worked foot-beats. Motor vehicles not only provided police with better surveillance and mobility, but also incentive to patronize local businesses.
To meet the demand of the morning rush, doughnut shops operated at night—the same hours as police were working the graveyard shift. Officers would visit the doughnut shops to grab a cheap late-night snack, get a caffeine-filled cup of coffee, or fill out paperwork in a comfortable environment. The presence of police during the late-night hours provided security for shop workers. This symbiotic relationship gave rise to the popular conception of cops being addicted to doughnuts.
Life can imitate art and uphold stereotypes, though. In 2009, a Queens, N.Y., police sergeant was investigated for underpaying and stealing doughnuts from a Dunkin’ Donuts. Most precincts now discourage cops from taking any sort of handouts.
This stereotype can be used for good. For the last 10 years, Krispy Kreme and local police departments have held annual “Cops on Doughnut Shops” events, which support the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. In 2009, Cops on Doughnut Shops raised more than $200,000.
While the cops and doughnuts stereotype continues to pervade culture, pastries and police make one sweet combination.
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