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May 27, 2022

Cops and Doughnuts: What started the cliche?

My Sheriff asked me not long ago to deliver some doughnuts to the county courthouse, not for the deputies but the civilian employees. I have shied away from donuts, especially in uniform. I am someone that likes to avoid cliches if at all possible. So as I walked out of the donut shop with an assorted dozen, people stopped to have a chuckle. “Can you be more cliche?”, “Hey, a cop with donuts, never expected that!” and other utterances that I attempted to ignore. Honestly, I wanted to roll my eyes and toss the box, but instead, I thought, why are cops associated with donuts? 

Donut shops originated in densely populated cities just after World War One. Soldiers coming home had developed a taste for them after being exposed to the delicious fried goodness by the Salvation Army. They were affectionately referred to as “Donut Dollies.” The Donut Dollies would give the soldiers from the trenches a nice tasty treat to nibble on behind the lines. The intention was to lift their spirits and take their minds off the hell they were enduring. 

So post-war America saw shops that would open long before dawn. They would make batches of donuts for customers to grab in the morning, served with a steaming hot cup of Joe. 

Prior to that law enforcement officers working the late-night shifts had almost no options for meals after hours. 

“They could pack lunch, pray for an all-night diner on their beat, or fill up on doughnuts. Doughnuts usually won out. They were, to most palates, tasty, and they were cheap and convenient.” Michael Krondl The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin

Few 24-hour diners were available and only in major cities. So cops had meager options at their disposal for a late-night snack. Either they could pack their lunches and eat a limp, soggy sandwich or go hungry. That is until donut shops started to spring up all over the nation. 

Fast forward about thirty years to the end of World War II, and donut shops were popping up all over America. Major metropolitan cities and small country towns started to dabble in the art of circular fried dough. Keeping with the tradition, they would get up long before dawn to prepare their fried cake halos of goodness. But, the boys in blue had a new option to fill their hungry holes after hours. 

It was not uncommon for law enforcement officers to sit at the counter with a fresh cup of coffee while they waited for a nice glazed circle of joy. The officers would fill out the paperwork they accrued during their long shift beforehand as they waited. Giving birth to the familiar tune “Cops love donuts.” 

So the next time you want to be like me and avoid a cliche, remember that we come from a noble history of munching donuts. Be proud; embrace tradition.