The Donut Dilemma

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a cop pulls a man over for OUI and says, “I know you’ve been drinking, your eyes are glassy.” The man responds, “I know you’ve been eating donuts; your eyes are glazed.”

Everyone knows a joke about cops and donuts. There are jokes about earning donut “merit” patches for saving lives and about cops revoking the drivers licenses of people who take too long in the Dunkin Donuts drive through. There’s a bumper sticker that reads, “Bad Cop, No Donut.” People send email pictures of a mock crime scene with police tape around a half-eaten donut. Most cops have gotten donuts as a gag gift. I got a lovely pink box with a dozen Boston Crème for my Academy graduation. My family spent years joking that I’d fix tickets for them in exchange for donuts. One of my brothers still insists that my line of duty injury involved falling off a stool at Dunkin Donuts. Firefighters get in on it, too, teasing officers about a new and improved donut, powdered with a dark blue sugar that won’t ruin their uniforms. And even cops joke about their five basic food groups: glazed, jelly, powdered, chocolate frosted, and “ghetto,” the donuts that are left over after a long meeting of the command staff.

It’s not really an addiction - cops can give up donuts any time, especially when their colleagues’ kids are selling girl scout cookies. Besides, it’s not really about the donuts. Not many cops even eat donuts. The donut jokes are what counts. Humor comes in handy when things get serious. When you’re a cop, things can get serious, fast.

Police play a one-sided game every day. It’s a violent game and the cops are the only ones who have to follow the rules. Experts often describe police work as long periods of mind-numbing boredom followed by moments of sheer terror. Every encounter could end with the officer’s death but he is expected to be polite and professional until that actually happens. A bad day for you might involve a fight with your boss, or a network crash, or maybe a missed lunch break. A bad day for a cop might involve breaking up a gang fight, or taking an abused child away from his parents, or spending a lunch break amidst blood and broken glass on the roadway. If one police officer doesn’t meet the media’s expectations, they’re all brutal, or racist, or bungling fools. If one officer does something heroic, the rest are still brutal, or racist, or bungling fools.

Civilians want to hear stories of shootouts, and fiery rescues, and bodies strewn along the highways but cops most often share the stories that involve breathtaking incompetence. A cop’s job security is an incurable disease called stupidity, and many people are carriers. When they don’t know who to call for information about the landfill hours or fireworks, they call the police. They dial 911 if they’re too lazy to look up the number. Why not? The little girl who’s drowning in a local pool won’t mind the extra seconds it takes for the operator to get rid of their call and take the call that might save her life. Indeed, many people call 911 for any threat to public safety – you know, a cable outage on the Red Sox’ opening day, or to report that their friend’s kid went swimming without observing the wait-thirty-minutes-after-eating rule. It’s a trend. Someone loaded your dishwasher the wrong way? Call the cops. Someone ate just one Lay’s potato chip? Call the cops. Left your really expensive stuff out in plain view in an unlocked car? It will be their biggest priority.

They don’t mind. Really. Your room temperature IQ will provide them with the humor they need after doing CPR on the infant who was left in a stifling hot car while his parents shopped for a big screen TV. The fact that you didn’t know there are inappropriate places to pee will keep them laughing when they are trying not to think about what your neighbor did to his own daughter. Cops don’t mind handling all of your problems. They like to say that they enjoy the challenge of being expected to immediately stabilize a situation that took years to deteriorate.

When there are three police cruisers at the donut shop, people complain that their tax dollars are being wasted. They joke that Dunkin Donuts is the “police substation.” Most likely, the cops inside are on a well-deserved break - relaxing, sharing a moment of peace with some colleagues and enjoying a warm, friendly, muted cup of coffee. It’s also possible that the manager called 911 when someone tried to use an expired coupon…

Donut shops and cops will always be a team, until, that is, someone discovers a way to administer coffee, and loyal camaraderie, with an IV. And the donuts? They are very tempting, after all, and the alter of truth, justice and the American way won’t collapse if a cop eats a donut.

George Orwell said "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those that would do us harm."

Who cares if those rough men (and women) are clutching a frosted jelly donut with rainbow sprinkles in one hand?

Jill Wragg is a retired police officer.
She can be reached at

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Deb said...

Fabulous Jill! I alway enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work!
~Deb Cullen

Carin said...

I figure with the hours they keep, let 'em have a doughnut.

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Jill. An added point. The only place open (in the old days) for those of us needing a cup of coffee at 3 in the morning to get us through the graveyard shift was the donut shop.