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Commentary

Freebies for Police Officers

October 19, 2002

Re "Paying a Price for Freebies," Oct. 12: "A band of reform-minded chiefs is trying to banish these benefits." Surely they jest! Don't these police chiefs have enough serious crime to worry about without harassing their officers about free or discounted food offered by grateful citizens? The men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day deserve more than free cups of coffee, doughnuts or discounted chicken dinners.

Are these officers so highly paid that we should begrudge them these freebies? I don't think so. Besides, they bring a sense of calm and safety to the establishments they frequent. I enjoy seeing police officers eating in a restaurant when I'm there. I feel safe.

The police chiefs don't have to hire consultants, seek grants, etc., to devise a plan to enhance goodwill in the community when this so-called gratuity system already exists. Give the officers a break; get off their backs about this nonissue. Go out and get the really bad guys.

Melba F. Coleman

Culver City

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In the mid-'60s I worked for a fairly large liquor store on Ventura Boulevard. I was basically a delivery boy, but eventually I started working behind the counter as a clerk. One Saturday night two uniformed LAPD cops came in and each got a couple of packs of cigarettes. Well, not knowing any better, I charged them the 35 cents or so a pack. They looked at me kind of strangely but paid and then left.

When I came in for my delivery chores the next Wednesday, boy, did I get it. I was asked what happened with the cops on Saturday and why I charged them for the cigarettes. I told the boss that I did what I was supposed to and charged "all" customers. Well, the cops weren't "all" customers, and from now on when any uniformed cop came in for a pack or two of cigarettes or a soft drink, it would be on the house. Next Saturday, the same two cops came in and got their same packs of cigarettes. This time I told them it was on the house.

A few months later there started to be some robberies in the Sherman Oaks-Studio City area, especially at nights along Ventura Boulevard. When the cops came in one Saturday around 9 p.m., I mentioned to them that I was kind of worried about all those robberies, and they told me not to worry. Later that night, just before closing at 2 a.m., I saw this cop car pull into the lot and just sit there until I closed up and left for home. It was my new friends. They waved to me when I left, and they did this same routine for the next few weeks, until the robber was eventually caught somewhere else.

Would they have been sitting in the lot at closing had I not given them the freebies? I don't think so. Was this cheap protection? You bet. Was I happy about this? Sure was.

Norm Katuna

San Diego

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The "gimme" attitude of our so-called protectors could easily be compared with pot smokers or cocaine and heroin users. The continued use of law enforcement officers' badges and uniforms to get discounts easily turns to addiction. No business owner owes the police a penny beyond their salaries. I was sickened one night when eight men from the Sheriff's Department stood around in a local fast food establishment until the owner told his waitress to "give them anything on the menu for $2." I almost choked on my $4 sandwich.

Herbert Buck

Cerritos

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Seniors, students and teachers are examples of groups of people with modest incomes who receive discounts on various things. Why should peace officers not be included? They have a job that is highly stressful and, depending on where they work, can be very dangerous. Their salary is not reflective of the work that is expected from them. Discounts are a built-in perk that comes with this type of job.

Giving them a discount is a win-win for everyone. For many people in the community it is a way of saying "thank you" for all you do for us. It makes merchants feel good to give back, and gives peace officers a feeling of being appreciated. Then there are the merchants who do it because it is a way of generating business. Peace officers are a vital part of our city. If individuals or companies want to show their appreciation for all the hard work they do, they should be able to do so. There may be some peace officers who take advantage of this, but you will find those kinds of people in every profession.

Cynthia Marcus

Van Nuys

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What happened to honoring our community servants in a post-9/11 world? Mooching is one thing, but the last I heard, accepting small gifts is called being gracious. I am a former teacher who used to receive discounts at book stores by showing my ID and receive gifts from my students at the end of a semester. Did this influence my grading practices or where I had students buy books? Not a bit! And I trust that for the vast majority of officers the same is true. I had a friend who was a small-town cop for a few years and finally quit the job, partly because of the utter hostility he received from strangers. I don't know many people who could tolerate the verbal abuse an officer receives on a daily basis, let alone the physical danger. So officers receive a free burrito or a cup of coffee? That's the very least we can give them!

Pam Utterback

Santa Monica

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