What is the origin of the cops and donuts stereotype?

The only thing I can find on this is that donut shops were the only place open late at night when a cop wanted coffee.

So I have always figured. Donuts are a morning food. In the Good Old Days, the donut shop would fire up early to be ready for the breakfast rush. As a result, it was one of the few places to grab a cup of Joe in the wee hours.

I’m just guessing, but I would think that since doughnut shops tend to be on street corners, and many have drive-throughs and parking lots, they have the added advantage of being located in spots where the cops can keep watching traffic, get back to the road easily in case they get called somewhere, and provide coffee and snacks as needed. So they “always seem to be there” in the same way that there is always an ambulance in that parking lot near the overpass or wherever.

I think you have too high an opinion of cops. I doubt if watching traffic is their highest priority on deciding where to grab a bite.

I think cmbv1234 has it – places that are open for business at all hours are frequented by those who have jobs at all hours.

I’d agree. It’s just a place that’s likely to be open late at night suitable for taking a break and getting a cuppa joe.

My cousin’s husband is a cop, and she also worked in law enforcement for a while. Whenever they come by the house they always bring a box of donuts as a joke (and we all shout in mock alarm, “Watch out! The cops are here!”) :slight_smile:

25 years ago, my brother and a friend were driving through a residential area when their car was pelted with rocks and ice. They stopped to investigate, saw some neighborhood youth take flight, gave chase, and caught one of the culprits. They [del]kidnap[/del] made a “citizen’s arrest.” They didn’t see any cops around, so they went to the local donut shop where they found several of the city’s finest, who weren’t interested in arresting the kid or investigating further. Instead they told my brother and his friend not to make any more citizen’s arrests, freed the vandal, and returned to their meals.

As for why cops hang out there, I agree that donut shops have coffee and are open at convenient times. That’s as good a reason as any to hang out there.

The donut shop may be a holdover from previous generations.
There was a time in human history (say, pre-1960) when virtually nothing was open after 7:00 at night. Before Walmart, before fast-food chains, before the interstate highways existed. Only one small chain of shops called Seven-Eleven had a radical idea–staying open from 7 a.m till 11 p.m
So, except for donut shops, there was no place else for cops to hang out.
(Or maybe I’m totally wrong. Are there any old farts around here who remember those days?)

At present, “open late and found on streetcorners” also applies to gas stations and prostitutes. But as has been mentioned, bakeries generally start working in the wee hours of the morning so by the time customers arrive, there is fresh product (which sells better than the day-old, one would guess).

If I had to further make any guesses, I’m gonna say it originated in New York City. (When you can’t blame the Greeks or the Egyptians, New Yorkers are a good fallback position.) Small towns were probably less likely to have the combination of highly visible police vehicles + late night shifts + donut shop.

And wouldn’t the donut shop be more willing to give cops free food and coffee as opposed to an upscale restaurant or night club that is also open into the wee hours?

Back in the 1960s the only places in my neighborhood in the Bronx that were open all night were a couple of diners and White Castle.

I don’t know that there were actually that many shops dedicated to selling just coffee and donuts that long ago. I think that a donut was just a convenient snack you would get along with your coffee when you stopped off at the all-night diner.

I asked an ex-cop about this very thing years ago. He said that in addition to the hours of donut shops, donuts are just fine if you get a call and have to toss half your donut on the dashboard to come back to it later. Not so with hot snacks.

Yup, and I’m in my late thirties. I can remember when Sydney, which then had about three million souls (so not a small town) would shut down at 12 noon on Saturday, and not open until Monday morning. Thursday Late Night Shopping (department stores open until 9pm) was new and radical, but apart from that, there was nothing after business hours. We didn’t get 7-11 type places until around 1980 or so, and then only one or two of them. On Sunday, you could shoot a rifle down George St, Sydney. Clement Freud’s famous quip (from memory) of “I can’t rightly say whether or not I liked Australia. When I was there, it appeared to be shut!” was sadly true, right up until relatively recent times.

As for the cops and doughnuts, when Krispy Kreme opened a new store in an outer suburb here, the local police sergeant banned them from police station premises. The inherent humour of this got the press interested, so he should have done nothing, but it turns out that Krispy Kreme has a policy of, whenever they open a new store, giving a box of their doughnuts free to all the other businesses in town - so the cops got one. Old Sarge didn’t know this, and thought they were yanking his chain, I think.

Some stereotypes are just true. Cops in may localities around me spend a lot of time at the donut shops. The best is one local towns dunkin donuts isn’t 24 hours but the police have their own keys so they can make coffee as needed.

Before suburbanization, when cops walked instead of rode, the gag was of them stealing apples from pushcarts. So now they eat worse and get less excercise.

I’ve heard that places like 7-11 will give cops free snacks and/or coffee to encourage them to hang around places that would otherwise be prime targets for robbery. The fact that everybody seems to know (and see) that cops are always at the 7-11 around the corner from me seems to lend some credence to that theory

Here’s what I’ve heard:
Cops have paperwork to do, when they make an arrest or write a ticket. It’s more comfortable to do the paperwork somewhere with a table or a counter. So, they are looking for someplace that has tables, won’t expect much money, doesn’t care if they hang out for a while, and is open in the middle of the night. Viola- doughnut shops.

In my, um, active years (the early 80s), we used to roam the streets all night from bar to club to alley to gutter, with the epicenter of our activities encompassing the intersection of Clark and Broadway in Chicago. The most prominent feature of which was a Dunkin Donuts encircled by a large parking lot. No matter what time of night or morning we’d pass the place, there was pretty much guaranteed to be at least 2 cops sitting at the counter.

McDonald’s in Australia has always had a “tax free” button on their cash registers. They hit this whenever a uniformed police officer buys something. I don’t know whether McD’s pays the tax itself or if it’s some sort of government exemption, but the police definitely get cheap burgers, and McDonald’s gets free security in return. They have always been quite open about this. Cops get free public transport, for the same reaon.

A cheap, quick, sugary snack that fills you up.

The coffee is hot (good for Winter), & has blessed, blessed caffine.
What more is needed, for a guy who has to stay up all night, wandering around, in every kind of weather?

When I worked at McDonald’s in a previous millennium, we’d “promo” their order completely, netting them absolutely free goodies. The cops didn’t abuse this.