Warehouse E

Paying For Protection?

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Old Custom – Cops Snitching Their Apples

By James Donahue

A Daytona Beach television station reports that an internal police investigation found a member of the local police force guilty of threatening a Starbucks coffee store after its new manager refused to continue the complimentary drinks he had been receiving for a period of about two years.

The story said Lt. Major Garvin was fired over the incident. Garvin denied it, but was found guilty of telling the manager that police response time to the store might be “really slow” in the event of a problem. He was quoted as saying: “I’ve been coming here for years and I’ve been getting whatever I want. I’m the difference between you getting a two-minute response time, if you needed a little help, or a 15-minutes response time.”

What happened in the Daytona Beach Starbucks may sound a bit like a mob shakedown in Chicago or New York during the days of such infamous gangsters as Al Capone and “Lucky” Luciano, when shopkeepers paid for “protection” from having their places of business wrecked or burned.

Actually, the quiet “payoff” to the police has been going on for years, and it is a lot more common than most people might think. The Norman Rockwall image of the police officer on his beat, helping himself to an apple at a fruit stand while the store clerk looks the other way, is a simplistic but true portrait of the attitude expressed by many police officers in America.

As a working reporter in a rural Michigan area I was shocked some years back when I spent a night with the police during a drug sting operation.

The event went on for much of the night, and the police were wrapping up their work at about dawn. That was when the officers went to the nearest town, pulled into an early morning diner and ordered hearty breakfasts. Since I was with them, I ordered breakfast too.

When it came time to leave, the officers just got up and walked out of the restaurant, not bothering to stop at the cash register. I was perplexed by that, and when I stopped to pay, the waitress looked at me in surprise. “Aren’t you with them?” she asked. “Well, yes,” I answered. “Then it’s on the house,” she said.

That was the first time I realized the kind of silent privileges police, not only in that area, but I believe all over the country, get from the communities they live in. As I covered police news and traveled with the officers over the years after that, I witnessed this same behavior and was always a little shocked by it.

We understand that many people know that police and underpaid, work long hard hours, and sometimes put their lives on the line. Thus these kinds of gratuties by store owners might be expected, especially in the midst of a major police-related event. But what I witnessed seemed to take this "gift giving" to the extreme.

Not only did the police get coffee, doughnuts, meals and other services provided without charge, they acted as if they expected it. They never made an offer to pay, but just walked out of the stores.

I became so used to this behavior by the police that after a while, I stopped being surprised. But I never thought it was right.

That a store manager in a Daytona Beach Starbucks called them on it, and the incident sparked an internal police investigation that led to the firing of the officer involved, seems significant. Can it be that people in America are so tired of corrupt leadership they are ready to stand up for change, not only at the highest levels, but reaching all the way down to the grass roots?

Forcing the police to pay for their doughnuts is an interesting idea and perhaps long overdue.