What in Sam Hill has happened to American law enforcement?
I had to ask myself this question just a few days ago as I cruised by a designer coffee shop and observed a half-dozen police vehicles in the immediate vicinity.
Had a prison inmate escaped and taken all the baristas hostage?
Sadly, no. The situation was much, much worse. Apparently several officers had stopped for coffee.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sworn peace officers pausing for a cup of coffee. In fact, enthusiastic consumption of coffee is commendable. The best police departments are caffeinated police departments.
No, the problem was in the kind of coffee the officers were consuming – designer coffee.
Real cops don’t drink lattes.
Real cops snack on carpet tacks washed down with three-day-old coffee from a dirty cup.
Real cop coffee is best brewed in an unwashed squad room percolator and reheated a dozen times. The good stuff is brewed with three times the amount of ground coffee recommended by the coffee-maker manufacturer and should be measured by the fistful rather than the tablespoon.
Steamed milk, whipped cream and (shudder!) sprinkles have no place in this coffee.
Sugar may be used sparingly if it were purchased from an Army surplus store sometime in the mid-1990s or has been allowed to sit in a forgotten bowl until it resembles quartz crystal and has to be freed with a chisel.
I recall a particularly memorable cup of coffee I consumed nearly three decades ago when I joined some county sheriff’s detectives for a cup of their famous brew one rainy November morning. The sheriff’s investigations division at that time was located in the old 1907 county jail in downtown Fairfield and the coffee was prepared by inmates in the jail kitchen.
We had barely begun to enjoy the sturdy beverage when a panicked-looking correctional officer ran up the stairs to warn us that one of the inmates had somehow mistaken the coffee urn for a urinal.
Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this whole unsavory experience was that none of us could taste the difference between that morning’s coffee and the coffee to be found at any Solano County law enforcement agency on any given morning.
Today’s lawmen also should remember that a grimy cardboard cup of genuine squad room coffee can be a very effective defensive weapon when the chips are down.
Your sidearm’s jammed and your baton is tangled with the seat belt, but you’ve still got a cup of three-day-old coffee festering on the console of your patrol car. Wave that puppy around a few times and even hardcore felons will quickly surrender.
Hook ’em and book ’em, amigos…
Originally published July 30, 2006