During my career in law enforcement I can count between both hands the number of times I’ve accepted a free cup of coffee, sandwich, or complete meal. Out of those times the offers were made out of a sense of duty, culturally motivated, by the provider. As a Field Training Officer, Instructor, and command person I strove to teach new officers (rookies) proper ethics regarding acceptance of gratuities. Moreover, I stressed reasons why not to accept “Freebees’.
Most proprietors welcome the sight of an officer who stops in for a cup of coffee, or a quick meal. This is especially true in high crime rate areas. Most will also tell the officer “no charge’. They say this is done out a sense of duty felt towards law enforcement personnel. But then when speaking to proprietors, they will openly tell you the freebees are offered so as to attract police presence in their establishment(s) thus serving as a deterrence to crime.
So, are the proprietors offering that cup of coffee out of good will? I think not. According to Kant their motives are of “Self-Interest’ ……”Police Protection”, which disqualifies “Good Will’. What’s that say about the officer who stops by because she/he knows a free cup of coffee is waiting for them? The officer is already paid to do their job, by stopping for that free cup of coffee so as to enhance a police presence, isn’t that also being paid to do your job again? AKA “Paid Protection’? Ethics?
I personally would respond better if the proprietor would just tell me…’Lots of bad guys and gals here lately, would you mind stopping by more often? I’ll make sure the coffee is fresh’. I would respond by saying ‘We’ll do our best’, and then advise other officers. Now we could stop by, grab a fresh cup of coffee (as promised), pay for it, and leave. Now we’ve acted on a sense of duty, Good Will, which also supports moral worth. Both parties are happy with the outcome (except the bad guys and gals).