What IS IT with Cops and Donuts?

AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins

In the United States, we’re known for our array of foods and sweets. Many cultures are associated with foods, some of which can be traced back to a specific moment or cultural importance. Some however, are just as widely recognized, but simultaneously a little more niche. The relationship between officers of the law and donuts is one of those. In any movie or show portraying law enforcement, there are donuts.

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This theme is strong in American entertainment, yet most people don’t know where it came from. Like many stereotypes, this one is based in a little bit of truth and it dates all the way back to the 1900s.

What’s the connection between cops and donuts?

Donut shops in the 1950s were one of the only food options available for policemen working the night shift. Doughnut shops kept late hours because they needed to prepare for the morning rush of commuters, thus police officers and donut shops were both seemingly in constant operation on the same schedules This made doughnut shops and coffee shops any easy choice for police officers to go in and relax for a meal: coffee and donuts. Many members of local police departments preferred fresh doughnuts to a sack lunches, anyway. Doughnuts were inexpensive, convenient, sweet, and cheap, making them the perfect snack. Often, the members of local police departments frequenting doughnut shops were given food and drink on the house. Today, the relationship between American police officers and doughnuts is seen as a laughable trope to most.

This was not the case, however, in the early ’50s. The relationship between the two held a completely different meaning. There was a feeling of pride and safety associated with the frequency of police officers coming into the shop. Having members of police departments visit their shops made shop owners feel safe, and that their spot and products were superior to the local competition.

Cops & Doughnuts in Clare, Michigan

A recent testament to this time-tested relationship centers around a historic business in Clare, Michigan, the Clare City Bakery. The small business was on the verge of closure in 2008, after serving their community for 113 years! The officers at the town’s local police station decided to buy the business, change the name to Cops & Doughnuts, and rebuild the brand anew.

Since their initial opening, there have been many successes. Most years they pull a hefty revenue, which they invest back in the company. They have even won a donuts showdown on the Cooking Channel. But most importantly, Cops & Doughnuts managed to save a bakery that meant so much to their police force and town. Their donut shop and retail shop have rejuvenated the spirit and economy of downtown Clare, and increased the sense of community in the Michigan town. As the business branches out and begins to franchise, they are hoping to one day be as common a household name as Dunkin’ Donuts.

The bakery is located at 521 N McEwan St, Clare, Michigan. If you visit, you can get one of the mug shot t-shirts, or check out the badges they receive from different precincts. Oh, and Do-nut forget to grab one of the apple fritters and check out the capital precinct in Lansing!

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