In a Facebook post that went viral over the weekend, a police officer who was denied special treatment at a local Starbucks cited the mildly irksome ordeal as just one more example of rampant disrespect for cops among young people. The post has been shared more than 14,000 times, and drew a speedy response from Starbucks, which promised to "ensure this doesn't happen in the future."
"This is the world cops live in," wrote the officer. "It's hip for this generation to berate and totally disrespect cops in front of the public and praise cop killers as the heroes…"
What prompted such a declaration? According to the cop's post*, he visited a Philadelphia-area Starbucks and asked to use the bathroom, which was locked and required a key code. The barista—a "young blonde liberal," according to the cop—told him only paying customers were allowed to use the bathroom:
I then ask in a very polite manner if I could please use it. She then states in the same loud manner and a smirk "Are you a paying customer?". It was at this point that I realized what she was doing. As I walked out with my hand up and while she continued loudly to tell me about the bathroom down the street, I was even more astonished that the many customers and other employees said nothing and seemed indifferent.
… I never post things but I hope my fellow brothers and sisters in blue see this and know that we have each other…
This is the world we live in today—one in which police officers are expected to abide by the same Starbucks bathroom rules as everybody else. Outrageous!
Obviously, it's possible that this Starbucks employee was ruder than she needed to be. But I sincerely doubt she originated the paying-customers-only policy, which probably exists to satisfy the needs of people who actually have some business being in Starbucks. The barista could have gotten in trouble for relaxing the policy, even for a pushy police officer.
The officer, after all, is not arguing that the policy is wrong, but rather, that he deserves an exemption from it by virtue of being a police officer. In this manner, he is not asking for cops to be treated with the same respect that all people deserve. No, he's asserting that cops deserve blanket above-and-beyond respect, by mere virtue of their badges.
The idea that cops aren't getting the extra-respect they deserve is often presented in tandem with the notion that policework is uniquely dangerous—that there is a "war on cops." But this notion is manifestly untrue.
Daniel Bier of the Foundation for Economic Education and Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute recently crunched some data in separate blog posts. Bier provides telling examples:
In 2008, you were 12 times more likely to be killed living in New Orleans than wearing a badge. Since then, the number of police has increased, so the rate is almost certainly lower today.
The bottom line is that cops are safer than many workers, safer than residents of many cities, and indeed safer than they've been in decades.
It's safer to be a cop than it is to live in Baltimore. It's safer to be a cop than it is to be a fisher, logger, pilot, roofer, miner, trucker, or taxi driver. It's safer to be a cop today than it's been in years, decades, or even a century, by some measures.
The fact that law enforcement is a relatively safe occupation does not mean cops deserve to be spit upon in public. (No one does.) But they also don't deserve exemption from public scrutiny—and wouldn't, even if their work was dangerous—nor should they enjoy special privileges at Starbucks.
[*Updated at 4:20 p.m.] Joe Leighthardt, the individual who posted details of the incident to Starbucks' Facebook page, claims he was merely reposting someone else's story. I have removed references to Leighthardt that assumed he was the subject of the bathroom story.