All across this country there are Officers on duty that stop at restaurants, convenience stores, and other types of establishments and enjoy a free meal or soda simply because they wear the uniform. I know this may seem a trivial thing to many Officers, and I am sure there are many out there who feel that they are somehow entitled to this practice.
I know that the owners of these establishments only have the best of intentions, and just want to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by theses dedicated men and women. It doesnâ€™t hurt either that for the cost of a meal there is a Police car parked in front of their place acting as a deterrent to any would-be criminals. What about all of the other businesses and residents of the community? Should they have to provide free meals and drinks to get the same level of service? Donâ€™t they already pay for that service with their tax dollars?
I know that most Officers would never dream of being involved in corruption, but how many Officers started with some innocuous transgression that grew out of hand, and before they knew it were in too deep? When does it begin? What happens when the restaurant owner has an incident and expects the officer to overlook it, because, after all, he has given him and his fellow Officers free lunches for a long time? Does the Officer give the break to the owner? Would he give the same break to the average citizen who hasnâ€™t fed him everyday?
Then there is the argument that â€œItâ€™s just a soda!â€ What harm is in that?
Letâ€™s look at this from a financial point of view. If two Officers go in at the beginning, then their meal break, and then at the end of their shift, and each get a large soda at $1.50 per soda, that equals $9.00 per shift. Take that times 3 shifts that is $27.00/day. Then take that times 365 days per year and the total the owner has put out is $9,855.00 a year. That is just for sodas. Now you relate that to a restaurant that gives out full meals for Officers and you could double or triple that figure. Is that Graft? You be the judge.
I personally feel that any Police entity should take a hard look at this practice. I know some departments have regulations against this type of gratuity, but most are lacking in the enforcement. The integrity of the entire department could be at risk. Most Officers would not let the taking of a soda interfere with their judgment, but it would only take one incident involving one Officer to put years of hard work in jeopardy. Is it worth the price of a soda? Ultimately it is up to the individual Officer to safeguard his reputation and integrity. When the day is done that is all we have that no one can take from us.
BE STRONG! BE SAFE!