This doughnut-loving cop’s stereotype is well-established — but how did it start? On National Doughnut Days, the candy treat’s biggest fans will celebrate by taking benefit of doughnut shops’ deals at no cost or discounted products, whilst police departments will inevitably poke fun at this”national holiday for police officers” on social networking. The brief answer is that police officers have worked odd hours, however, the alternatives for meals in the wee hours have been plentiful. The Choice to pick a doughnut up dates into the years after World War II.
“Graveyard cops in the forties and fifties had few choices. They could pack lunch, pray for an all-night diner on their route or fill up on doughnuts,” Norm Stamper, the former chief of the Seattle Police Department, says in The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin by Michael Krondl. “They were cheap and convenient.” Former Baltimore City police detective Dick Ellwood recalled being allowed to eat doughnuts off the assembly line after the shops opened in the morning’s wee hours.
“The early-hours doughnut shop is a post-World War I phenomenon in major cities and did not spread to most of the remainder of the country until after World War II, so the stereotype of an overweight officer drinking burnt coffee and eating a glazed doughnut is a relatively recent creation,” Paul Mullins, a professor of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and author of Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut, told TIME in an email.
He pointed out, it matters that doughnuts are cheap: cops aren’t supposed to accept any gifts while on duty, so it makes sense that they’d decide to spend their snack money. And, especially in those hours of the night, the doughnut shops attempted to lure police officers to stop in for a snack. In his autobiography, Dunkin’ Donuts founder William Rosenberg asserted he wanted to make certain franchises were”hospitable places for the police” who”protected the shops.”
As food options expanded over time, police came to be able to eat other things, but this particular joke stuck.