column: Cops look to coffee breaks for more than just a boost of energy
Meet me at “the 50," the “stone orchard," the “flatlands," the golf course or the “brain factory under the arch," are welcome words for weary warriors in Ann Arbor. Better yet is the addition of, “my turn to buy.” Those words mean that, in about 10 minutes, a police officer will wrap his hand around “a piping hot cup o’ joe.”
I do not think police work would be possible without coffee. I have even heard the famed grand master of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), forensic scientist and former police officer Dr. Henry Lee ask with a smile at homicide conferences, “How you gonna do police work without coffee and doughnuts?”
If there is a more social drink—that one can consume during the workday—I can not imagine. During the downtimes in police work, usually while most of the city is still snug in their beds, police officers meet for a cup of coffee.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Sometimes officers will meet at diners or stand up coffee shops like “2030”—the address on West Stadium Boulevard that used to house Amy Joy’s, Doughnut’s Time and now houses Dimo’s Deli and Donuts. Most times one officer will make the pick-up and meet another officer at a secluded — that is out of the public’s eye — location for coffee and camaraderie.
These clandestine coffee breaks are made car to car. Etiquette and proper form for such a rendezvous is that the first car to arrive backs into a spot—such as “the 50” which was the old loading dock at Chrisler Arena which was near the tunnel to the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium—hence the name. The second car to arrive positions itself so officers can speak driver to driver with windows down.
Driving is a source of pride in police work. Precision driving is what many police pursuit-driving courses are titled. Precision driving is never more important than meeting police car to police car for coffee or when midnight officers hang 2 to 5 a.m. parking tickets on offending vehicles without exiting their squad cars. One slight miscalculation can cause hours of paperwork and furious police supervisors.
When the second car parks next to the already parked police car, everyone is watching the pilot of the patrol car on final approach. First that officer must turn off the headlights—so as not to blind their coffee break partners. If ambient light is not sufficient, parking lights can be used on final approach. The approaching police car must park very close to the already parked police car.
How close you might ask? Roughly close enough that if each officer in their perspective cars positioned their spotlights properly the two cars could hold a piece of paper between the respective spotlights.
Young officers not used to the tradition park a safe distance away. They usually are met with the veteran officer in the other car cupping their hands over their mouth and mock yodeling—as if over a valley or canyon—“HELLL OOO—can—yooou-hear-me-over-there?” That gag, at the rookie’s expense, never wears out and always is a crowd pleaser for assembled veteran officers. It has on occasion caused an unfortunate mishap however.
One icy evening a young officer, nicknamed “Jane Wayne” for her youthful brashness, slid off the runway on final approach and scraped the side of “Louie” and “Big Jim’s” cruiser. I can only imagine the deadpan stares of disbelief, the huge bespectacled veterans shot each other, as Jane ground to a halt with their coffees. I can almost hear Louie gently shaking his index finger skyward and telling Jane, “YOU can explain this to the sergeant but thanks for the coffee.”
My dad taught me to drink my coffee black. He explained to me, when I started drinking coffee with cream and sugar at my first job at the old A & P in Maple Village, “You want a milk shake, get a milk shake. You wanna drink coffee, drink your coffee black.” My dad is a tough old no-nonsense World War II vet who had real “cups o’ Joe” as he fought his way from Omaha Beach to St. LO—I listened to pops.
Most cops take their coffee black. Some cops have a formula for their coffee like—“two creams and one pink and one blue sweetener if the coffee looks old, only one cream if it is a fresh pot.” This usually is translated to a black coffee, a couple of creams, stirs and a handful of sugars and sweeteners unceremoniously shoved in a bag.
The most unique order came from “Apache” the big Yooper with a deep booming voice who would always order his coffee, “Kahfee double cream just.”
No matter how an officer takes their coffee, once the first sip is taken and the warmth of that sip settles through their system it relaxes them. After the first sips and possible jibes about the approximate age of the pot from whence the coffee was poured, the officers settle back, chat, complain, tell stories and joke. Some of the best laughs of my life have come over cups of coffee with other cops.
Those coffee breaks are important to officers. They build work friendships, trust and can teach young officers how certain calls for service or problems are handled. These relaxed moments out of the public’s eye allow the officers to vent and bond with the peers they depend on for their safety. The joking, laughing and good-natured teasing keeps officers from getting bitter and cynical. Happy well-adjusted police officers deal with citizens much more effectively.
So whether the coffee is consumed at the stone orchard (a cemetery), the flatlands (the parking lots near the athletic fields on Fuller), the U-M Golf Course lot or a brain factory (school) it is an important part of police work. Enjoy ladies and gentlemen in uniform—you earn that coffee.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware, watch out for your neighbors and all the best to you In 2013.