Cops and doughnuts, it’s a tale as old as time. In 1996 The New York Times said: “No profession is as closely identified with food as police work is with doughnuts.”
So I called the Seattle Police Department, hoping they could send a few officers my way to talk about where this whole cop/doughnut thing came from. But I was slightly terrified that, not only would they deny my interview request, they would be so offended I’d be arrested on the spot.
Turns out, cops really do love doughnuts! Seattle Police department spokesman Sean Whitcomb told me they all love doughnuts and wondered how many cops I wanted to interview because pretty much everyone was game. But we whittled it down to three: Officer Whitcomb, bias crimes coordinator, Beth Waring, who investigates all the city’s hate crimes, and Adrian Diaz, community outreach
So where did the cops and doughnut stereotype come from?
“Police officers are shift workers which means we work around the clock, 365 days a year,” says Officer Whitcomb. “We also work out in the field. A lot of places closed at night so if you were working the night shift and you’re hungry, options are limited. The doughnuts are prepared in the early morning hours. As someone who spent my patrol time working the night shift, I spent five years working nights and three of those years were on a bike. Working the Ave, on a bike, at night in Seattle wintertimes sometimes can be unpleasant. It was nice around three in the morning to have a hot doughnut with gooey raspberry jelly, it was delicious. Also, a lot of the officers were writing their reports in the field. Hot doughnuts, writing your reports in the field. It’s a good recipe.”
From what I’ve read, cops started hanging out at doughnut shops around the 1950s, which coincides nicely with the existence of the country’s three biggest doughnut shops. Krispy Kreme opened its first shop in 1937, Winchell’s in 1948 and Dunkin Donuts in 1950.
I asked Officer Whitcomb if he ever avoids eating doughnuts in public.
“When I first got hired, I remember an academy instructor telling us, ‘One thing about being a cop is you can’t go around eating doughnuts. Don’t perpetuate the stereotype!’ But when you’re working nights, that wears off pretty fast.”
Officer Diaz says he has no problem perpetuating the stereotype.
“As a kid I grew up [loving] doughnuts and so it just continued on into my police career. Twenty years of policing, I find myself always enjoying a nice doughnut.”
Diaz does a lot of outreach work with kids and even runs an event called Doughnuts and Dialogue.
“While it might be a stereotype, I own that stereotype,” says Officer Diaz. “It allows me to continue eating doughnuts. I started out, when I got this job, about 50 pounds lighter. It’s filled up the belly nicely with a variety of different doughnuts.”
“I’m just glad that cops don’t have a stereotype for eating vegetables,” jokes Officer Whitcomb.
This story is just a segment of my latest Your Last Meal podcast, featuring Top Chef Season 14 winner Brooke Williamson. Listen on iTunes, where ever you get podcasts (and leave a review!) or here. The cops and I also tasted various doughnuts from around town, and they share their favorites.