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Posted on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Cops look to coffee breaks for more than just a boost of energy

By Rich Kinsey

Meet me at “the 50," the “stone orchard," the “flatlands," the golf course or the “brain factory under the arch," are welcome words for weary warriors in Ann Arbor. Better yet is the addition of, “my turn to buy.” Those words mean that, in about 10 minutes, a police officer will wrap his hand around “a piping hot cup o’ joe.”

I do not think police work would be possible without coffee. I have even heard the famed grand master of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), forensic scientist and former police officer Dr. Henry Lee ask with a smile at homicide conferences, “How you gonna do police work without coffee and doughnuts?”

If there is a more social drink—that one can consume during the workday—I can not imagine. During the downtimes in police work, usually while most of the city is still snug in their beds, police officers meet for a cup of coffee.

tb_coffee.JPG file photo

Sometimes officers will meet at diners or stand up coffee shops like “2030”—the address on West Stadium Boulevard that used to house Amy Joy’s, Doughnut’s Time and now houses Dimo’s Deli and Donuts. Most times one officer will make the pick-up and meet another officer at a secluded — that is out of the public’s eye — location for coffee and camaraderie.

These clandestine coffee breaks are made car to car. Etiquette and proper form for such a rendezvous is that the first car to arrive backs into a spot—such as “the 50” which was the old loading dock at Chrisler Arena which was near the tunnel to the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium—hence the name. The second car to arrive positions itself so officers can speak driver to driver with windows down.

Driving is a source of pride in police work. Precision driving is what many police pursuit-driving courses are titled. Precision driving is never more important than meeting police car to police car for coffee or when midnight officers hang 2 to 5 a.m. parking tickets on offending vehicles without exiting their squad cars. One slight miscalculation can cause hours of paperwork and furious police supervisors.

When the second car parks next to the already parked police car, everyone is watching the pilot of the patrol car on final approach. First that officer must turn off the headlights—so as not to blind their coffee break partners. If ambient light is not sufficient, parking lights can be used on final approach. The approaching police car must park very close to the already parked police car.

How close you might ask? Roughly close enough that if each officer in their perspective cars positioned their spotlights properly the two cars could hold a piece of paper between the respective spotlights.

Young officers not used to the tradition park a safe distance away. They usually are met with the veteran officer in the other car cupping their hands over their mouth and mock yodeling—as if over a valley or canyon—“HELLL…OOO—can—yooou-hear-me-over-there?” That gag, at the rookie’s expense, never wears out and always is a crowd pleaser for assembled veteran officers. It has on occasion caused an unfortunate mishap however.

One icy evening a young officer, nicknamed “Jane Wayne” for her youthful brashness, slid off the runway on final approach and scraped the side of “Louie” and “Big Jim’s” cruiser. I can only imagine the deadpan stares of disbelief, the huge bespectacled veterans shot each other, as Jane ground to a halt with their coffees. I can almost hear Louie gently shaking his index finger skyward and telling Jane, “YOU can explain this to the sergeant…but thanks for the coffee.”

My dad taught me to drink my coffee black. He explained to me, when I started drinking coffee with cream and sugar at my first job at the old A & P in Maple Village, “You want a milk shake, get a milk shake. You wanna drink coffee, drink your coffee black.” My dad is a tough old no-nonsense World War II vet who had real “cups o’ Joe” as he fought his way from Omaha Beach to St. LO—I listened to pops.

Most cops take their coffee black. Some cops have a formula for their coffee like—“two creams and one pink and one blue sweetener if the coffee looks old, only one cream if it is a fresh pot.” This usually is translated to a black coffee, a couple of creams, stirs and a handful of sugars and sweeteners unceremoniously shoved in a bag.

The most unique order came from “Apache” the big Yooper with a deep booming voice who would always order his coffee, “Kahfee… double cream…just.”

No matter how an officer takes their coffee, once the first sip is taken and the warmth of that sip settles through their system it relaxes them. After the first sips and possible jibes about the approximate age of the pot from whence the coffee was poured, the officers settle back, chat, complain, tell stories and joke. Some of the best laughs of my life have come over cups of coffee with other cops.

Those coffee breaks are important to officers. They build work friendships, trust and can teach young officers how certain calls for service or problems are handled. These relaxed moments out of the public’s eye allow the officers to vent and bond with the peers they depend on for their safety. The joking, laughing and good-natured teasing keeps officers from getting bitter and cynical. Happy well-adjusted police officers deal with citizens much more effectively.

So whether the coffee is consumed at the stone orchard (a cemetery), the flatlands (the parking lots near the athletic fields on Fuller), the U-M Golf Course lot or a brain factory (school) it is an important part of police work. Enjoy ladies and gentlemen in uniform—you earn that coffee.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware, watch out for your neighbors and all the best to you In 2013.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for



Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 6:40 a.m.

I hate coffee, oh that smell, yuck.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 6:20 a.m.

Those who are bitter or resentful toward cops really oughta have a cop in the family - or at least one as a neighbor. These are human beings, is my take. I guess I was just lucky: we've had 2 cops in the family, I've known personally a few cops and one of my high school buddies had a father who was a cop. So I got more of the full picture on both sides - eventually even as a plaintiff against ONE errant cop. If I had not known "cop life" - I'd have messed up and would have ended that complaint without success. My point is that cops make better allies than they do enemies - on average. I've been there with 'em when cops dealt with punks and when someone followed my mother one night with "evil intentions." Let me say that having cops understand me and having me understand them and their value to all of us: really makes me feel forgiving when I read a story about their break-taking traditions. Not long ago, one cop who'd been first on the scene of an armed robbery (with multiple perps) told me how it was getting out of that patrol car while facing several armed suspects. "All I could think of was that my kids were getting out of school about that moment...." That's a human being and a parent facing possible death in the line of duty talking. What WE face "in the line of duty" doesn't compare. And lets not even mention OUR reaction if, somehow, we were denied OUR coffee breaks. So let's cut 'em some slack, folks.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

EVERYBODY STOP COMPLAINING!!! These would be a great reason why I don't have any speeding tickets :) Does anybody know what time lunch breaks are lol

ms 2013

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

its ok that they take coffee breaks long as they keep doing there job

tom swift jr.

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

I've come to the conclusion that there is a regulation that requires at least 49% of the commenters on to put their compassion, friendliness, sense of humor, and appreciation of a simple, well written story on the shelf before they can type... must suck to be one of the heartless 49%.

Heidi Koester

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

Totally agree. In fact, I made a minor resolution to stop looking at the comments for that reason (a resolution which apparently I have just broken...).


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Billy and somewhat concerned, Our police officers in the Washtenaw county agencies make thousands of arrests a year, respond to fires, medical emergencies, car accidents, suicide, child abuse cases and yes even homicides just to name a few of the lovely things they see every day for 25 years while you sit at a computer and complain. The truth is you don't want a police department you want personal bodyguards to protect you 24/7. To believe that a cop isn't entitled to 10 minutes of downtime while they drink a cup of Joe shows a sad pathetic personality which oviously only gains gratification from tearing others down. Stay classy!


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 6:46 a.m.

Maybe so but too many bad guys don't get caught and too many decent people get harassed by cops. So they enjoy their cups of coffee, that about what OTHER people might enjoy ? If your not like them, some-not all but some cops do resent you. Those are the cops that give all cops a bad rap.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

I agree Sheepyd Before I moved from evening shift to night shift, I use to see Pittsfield police taking their break at the carpenter rd Lowes on my way home from work. Several times I saw them cut their break short to go on a run with lights and sirens on. Just because they take a break, doesn't mean that they won't respond when needed.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Thanks Rich, that was good. I enjoyed hearing about it from the inside. I say anything wholesome that can take the edge of the stress of a cop is probably a good thing.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

When they're not practising their precision coffee break parking skills away from the hustle and bustle of the world, and when they're not cruising around talking to friends on their cell phones, they do a great job of taking reports from citizens regarding crimes they missed while practising parking and jabbering. But, as the police union tells us, we need more of them.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

So you're telling me cops hangout in donut shops and meet up in secluded areas to drink coffee? My mind is blown!!


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.


Lou Belcher

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

A long time ago ( before cell phones ) My police scanner traffic was full of 99-90s calls. I ask Chief Corbett " what are all these 99-90 emergencies ?"....... the Chief just winked and said " an officer is going to a coffee emergency". And the only parking lot full of police cars in the middle of the night was behind Drake's where a hot food break from yesterday's menu was free to any officer at any time. When ever I rode the night shift with them I was honored to be invited to partake of this tradition .....long live the 99-90s.....our officers sure earn them ! Lou Belcher


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Thank you for the story Mr. Mayor!

Billy Bearwok

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

Am I supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy after reading this article? Are you kidding me? They hang out in secluded areas away from public eyes? Maybe these guys and gals ARE overpaid. They are supposed to remain ever visible. Visibility is a deterrent. But now you shed light on the fact that groups of them hide from the public on a regular basis. No wonder it took the cops 2 mins away nearly 30 minutes to respond to the call about the guy who was busy kicking my door in. If they want a break, fine. Stay visible, where a citizen who might just need assistance can find you. Unbelievable. Utterly unbelievable.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 6:38 a.m.

I guess you all missed the Bloomberg story about police officers who earn over $400,000 a year--unbelievable but true. That is why they like to make a big deal out of everything.

Superior Twp voter

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

Guess someone is having a bad morning....


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

They are hardly overpaid.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Geez Billy, take a breath. Workers of all types are usually entitled to take a break in their 8 hours shifts. And these cops stay in their cars and drink a cup of coffee for ten minutes.