Should They? Chipotle On Montague Offers Cops A 50% Discount

While the north side of Montague Street, between Clinton and Court, has been obstructed with scaffolding for what feels like forever, it seems that a bargain cannot be hidden. According to a story in The New York Times, “At Chipotle, an Unofficial and Prohibited Discount for Officers” that talks specifically about the Brooklyn Heights locale, uniformed police officers are offered a 50% discount. 

Is this cool with you? Vote in our poll after the jump

The article notes that “the Police Department’s lengthy Patrol Guide does not specifically refer to free, or steeply discounted, food. But officers are taught that food is covered under the Patrol Guide’s prohibition against accepting gratuities ‘or other compensation for any service performed as a result of or in conjunction with their duties as a public servant.'” A commander told the Times, “That policy covers the food issue. There should be no discount—heavy or light—whatsoever.”

The general manager of Chipotle Mexican Grill, however, characterizes the discount as a “courtesy.” What say you?

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  • Bloomy

    Maybe they have to give the cops a discount after their recent “C” grade. I used to go here a couple of times a week. It is one thing to have a few seeds on the floor at a bagel shop, but another when you mess up food temps. The major violations are listed below:

    1) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F.
    2) Meat, fish or molluscan shellfish served raw or undercooked without prior notification to customer.
    3) Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation.
    4) Personal cleanliness inadequate. Outer garment soiled with possible contaminant. Effective hair restraint not worn in an area where food is prepared.
    5) Wiping cloths soiled or not stored in sanitizing solution.

  • my2cents

    Being a patrol officer is a tough job. I don’t see why a little courtesy discount is something to frown upon, so long as it doesn’t reach the level of bribery–which this clearly isn’t.

  • Lou Howort

    They should not be offered any discount from any retailer nor should they accept one if it is offered. Even if this is stated to not be a bribe in order to get better service from the police it, at the very least, has the appearance of being an offer in order to get preferred treatment by the police.
    Even the appearance of improper behavior is enough to not allow a discount to be offered or accepted.

  • shamrock

    I certainly don’t have a problem with the “courtesy” being extended to police officers. To my knowledge, this seems to be a common practice for many places. Nice to hear someone is getting a break and not being taken (too many subpar restaurants selling over priced food anyway. Chipotle has found a pretty decent formula for their success—of course the “C” grade mentioned is rather unsettling).

  • Mr. Crusty

    I posted this on another tired but seems relevant.

    It’s funny that Police Officers are prohibited from taking “gratuities” because theoretically they are in a position of power and it might bias them if they have to take any official action with regards to that vendor.


    Our politicians can literally take millions of dollars from “donors” without any problem at all. Yes, some casino owner that is being investigated for illegalities can (and has) contributed tens of millions of dollars to politicians that might very likely be in a position of power that could directly benefit him but god forbid if he gave a cop a free cup of coffee.

    ya gotta love this country.

    btw, for the record, I am in agreement with the policy that prohibits police officers from receiving gratuities no matter how minor. It IS a corrupting influence. I was a law enforcement officer for many years and you would be amazed at the things that are given to you for free or at a discount. Anyone that thinks that would not influence judgement is just kidding themselves. I’d rather pay for my coffee than have someone think they could buy my favors for a buck fifty.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Another “thread” of course. I hate autocorrect.

  • Willowtowncop

    “In a town where a cop can’t accept a free cup of coffee, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been eating and drinking for free for the past eight years at the Harvard Club.

    Kelly hasn’t paid for his meals or drinks at the exclusive midtown spot on West 44th Street since 2002 when he returned as commissioner.

    Nor have his guests.

    Kelly also doesn’t pay his club’s dues, which come to about $1,500 a year.” -Lenny Levitt, 2010

    It’s just like the ticket fixing. No one thinks it’s quite right, but no one likes the idea of the grunts getting arrested for doing exactly what the DAs, the Brass, and all of City Hall do with impunity on a much larger scale every day.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Ditto Willowtowncop

  • PromGal

    A bribe implies that something is offered or given in return fir something. There has to be a quid pro quo for it to be a bribe.

    So many Heights establishments offer discounts to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have no problem with cops getting a discount on their lunch.

  • seriously

    Free parking isnt enough? Dont’ they get to retire earlier than the rest of us? Why should they be treated differently than others?

  • Peter


    Extending a break for Jehovah’s Witnesses, or students, for that matter is -totally different-.

    Neither are groups with police powers.. get it… that’s why they’re called the “police”. That’s why it has that word on their cars – that’s why they get to carry a gun and arrest people.

    How about a “courtesy” to food inspectors, or tax collectors?

    It shouldn’t go on – period. Go rent “Serpico” or “Prince of the City” if you need to understand why.

  • Mr. Crusty

    @PromGal that is why it is called a gratuity not a bribe. There are laws against bribes already the discussion is about gratuities which are more like potential bribes in advance.

    Let’s take an example, if Chipolte has been giving half price meals to cops for years, and every cop knows about the “discount” and one day, for whatever reason, you have a “customer dispute” with Chipolte and call the police. How likely do you think it is the the cop’s actions will not be tainted by all those “freebies” over the years? Do you think you would be on an equal playing field?

    Of course not. That is why it is prohibited. It’s not because it is a bribe but because it could lead to preferential treatment.

    Cops make decent money. They have great medical benefits. Great vacation. Can retire after 20 years. Whenever a test is given hundreds of thousands apply. Tell me why they need these discounts again? They are given these discounts for one reason only, the business owner hopes it might help him with any future police action. Like I said, a bribe in advance.

    As a former cop I was always a bit insulted that someone thought they might be able to buy my influence for the cost of a burrito.

  • epc

    A private business’ decision to extend courtesies to its customers is entirely up to that business to decide, as long as it’s legal.

    Good luck making it illegal for your minimum wage minority fast food worker to knock a couple of bucks off a cop’s drink.

  • Mr. Crusty

    It’s already against the law. Although it is not often enforced (guess who would have to enforce it)

    From the NYS Penal Law

    S 200.30 Giving unlawful gratuities.

    A person is guilty of giving unlawful gratuities when he knowingly
    confers, or offers or agrees to confer, any benefit upon a public
    servant for having engaged in official conduct which he was required
    or authorized to perform, and for which he was not entitled to any special or additional compensation.

    Giving unlawful gratuities is a class A misdemeanor.

  • Elmer Fudd

    You are less likely to be robbed if the bad guys know a cop is likely to walk in the door at any minute. It is good for business to have police friendly with your business, and good for your customers too.

    It is not like a bride to keep from getting a food violation, or a dirty sidewalk violation. Cops don’t write those kinds of tickets.

  • Bette

    Ditto Willowtowncop, too. I have no problem with it although I understand the arguments against it. These guys risk their lives every day. And also agree with Willowtowncop’s argument that the higher ups get all sorts of perks that the grunts don’t get, on a much more sophisticated scale, really makes me feel like, 50% off on a Taco is a small, decent thing for these guys. I don’t feel like it’s much of a “bribe” if that word has been bandied about.

    I was recently in a 20-person line to collect lost luggage, and the tenth guy in line was a soldier in fatigues, home on leave. I wanted to tell him to go to the front of the line, but it wasn’t for me to say. Wished that everyone just took for granted he should be given that courtesy. (I wrote to Delta and told them so).

  • AEB

    Seems to me the issue here is what constitutes a gratuity.

    Is Chipotle giving money in return for some service or favor, as one would give a tip? Or is it “tipping” in expectation of same?

    If the former–would one have to prove that a specific act was being acknowledged rather than tipping for a continued service?

    But of course, the real motive, I’d say, is to broaden one’s customer base or solidify the participation of a part of it.

  • Mr. Crusty

    So why do restaurants give discounts to cops?

    Is it an appreciation for their public service job? Well, why don’t they give discounts to firemen? teachers? nurses?

    Lets not be naive. They give discounts to cops because of two reasons:

    1) the aforementioned special treatment they hope they will get and

    2) they want cops in their restaurant. It is cheap security. As I mentioned before I was in law enforcement but now I am in the private security field. My company provides security officers. The going rate for an armed security officer of law enforcement caliber is $25 to $35 per hour. And what better security is there than a NYC police officer in uniform?

    Overnight diners often would give cops discounted meals. They wanted those officers having their meal periods in their restaurants at 4 am when the bars closed and every drunken nut job is looking for an open dinner. Having a couple cops sitting in a booth was great for the restaurant owner and comforting for their guests. The relatively inexpensive discounted meal bought them the best security in the world.

    Businesses don’t give cops breaks because they like cops or appreciate the tough job they do, they do it because they are business decisions and are getting something for it: special treatment, a blind eye towards violations, and the best security in the world.

  • Knight

    The NYT article was mentioned on Open Thread Wednesday, where my favorite remark on the topic came from Monty: “This actually bothers me less than when they get to cut the line at Fascati’s.” It’s true; their discount doesn’t affect me personally but when I have to wait their place on a line it sure does.

  • Reggie

    I work for the city and like all government employees who show identification, I get a ten percent discount at Hale & Hearty. But note that is all government employees, not just the folks at my agency. I think students also get a discount—it’s a promotion intended to attract customers. A discount, and a rather steep one at that, for just cops doesn’t have the same feel.

    Like Mr. Crusty—who makes a number of excellent points—I am insulted that people think they can ingratiate themselves with me for the price of a cup of coffee. If behavior can even be perceived as inappropriate, and many of the commenters above seem to think the Chipolte deal is, then it should not occur.

  • Gerry

    Police Officers make a good living they do not need a special deal they can afford to pay for what they need.

    @ Willowtown Cop – you are mistaken Ray Kelly is not a member of the Harvard Club he is a member of the Yale Club and no he is not in arrears you can bet if he was the media would be all over that a front page story- and the rest of your mistakes here about Ray Kelly would be dismissed without merrit by any reader nothing you said here about Kelly makes any sense. Yale Club not Harvard Club, etc.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Bette. the example you give about the soldier on line is not comparable. The soldier has no ability to exert authority over Delta Airlines. Police officers have tremendous authority. Big difference.

  • Peter Kaufman

    Mr. Crusty,
    Great responses. !00% spot-on.

  • Peter Kaufman

    Oops. “100%”. :)

  • WillowtownCop

    @ Seriously – I’m not sure what you mean about it not being fair that cops “get” to retire before “everyone else.” People “get” to retire when they make good financial decisions and they can afford it. Rich people’s children “get” to retire as soon as their born if they want to. I made the good decision to sign a contract to work for 20 years after which part of my compensation is a pension. The same contract was offered to anyone who wanted it. I don’t see how that isn’t fair. I also don’t know what dream world you live in where you think half of a $76K a year contact is enough to live on, especially when it doesn’t go up. Can you imagine living on $38K at the age of 80 forty years from now? As if city workers were the ones that ruined the economy and took millions in bailout money for executive bonuses.

    @ Mr. Crusty – you’re wrong about businesses not giving discounts to firefighters, city employees, teachers, nurses, the military, etc. They absolutely do. Is anyone worried that the FDNY might be quicker to respond to a fire at Key Foods than the Garden of Eden if the Garden of Eden didn’t give them a discount? It’s just as preposterous as suggesting that a street cop who doesn’t have anything to do with enforcing health code violations is somehow corrupted by a national chain that he has no power whatsoever to regulate offering him a burrito for $5 (what it’s worth) instead of $10.

    It amazes me that a newspaper that has no qualms about accusing half the police department of corruption over burritogate will in all likelihood endorse Christine Quinn for mayor despite the slush fund scandal that no one seems to care about. This is a woman whose office hid millions of taxpayer dollars by allocating grants to phantom organizations as a way of holding the funds to dole out political favors later. Almost a quarter of the money went to groups in her district. Why is there no “is this cool with you” poll on the blog? It’s also perfectly fine for senators to take campaign contributions from the gun lobby, the oil lobby, the cigarette lobby, etc. but god forbid a cop eats a discounted burrito. IAB will now have to create an undercover fast food worker unit, staffed with cops that they couldn’t possibly have a better use for.

  • j

    Seems silly to me that anyone would think that Chipotle giving cops a discount on already cheap food is a bribe. Like a $5 burrito is really going to make the cops double down on security in front of the restaurant? Sometimes a nice gesture is just a nice gesture.

  • Mr. Crusty

    @WillowTownCop ” you’re wrong about businesses not giving discounts to firefighters, city employees, teachers, nurses, the military, etc. They absolutely do.”

    So if a teacher goes into Choptle and says she is a teacher she will get half price on her burrito? A nurse? Does a school teacher get her coffee for free in any 7-11? WillowTownCop, if you were a cop (and I am not suggesting you are not) you know that cops are ALWAYS getting things for free. We even have slang for it. “on the arm” its called.

    I’ll give you an example of when I “saw the light”. As a rookie cop it was taken for granted that certain places gave you discounts. Thought nothing of it. This one dinner that we all used (only one open in the area) was 1/2 price. Then one day there was some dispute at the dinner and the cops did not take the side of the diner owner. He got real upset and screamed, “I’ve given all you guys free food for years and this is how you treat me?”

    ahhhhhhh….. ok. Got it. He thought he was buying us us for his crappy scrambled eggs. I realized at that moment that none of these places are giving us discounts because the love cops, its because they think it will be to their benefit. It IS a tiny tiny bribe each time.

    There is so much gray area and areas of discretion for police to exercise their authority and power anything that interferes with that is a problem. Hey, what if the officers sited with the owner of the diner in the case I referred to. We could just of likely heard the other party scream, “Hey, you cops always are in here getting free food that is why you are taking his side.” You see, it is a no win situation for the cop. The appearance of impropriety is just as damaging.

    Just my thoughts

  • PJL

    @WillowtownCop: you’re usually pretty reasonable, but people have started to realize that many city workers “get” to retire because taxpayers (most of whom are no longer offered pensions) fund Defined Benefit Plan retirements (no longer given to private workers–these are what almost bankrupted the auto industry) together with guaranteed health insurance benefits (the cost of which are exponentially higher than anyone imagined when most contracts were negotiated) for life. As life expectancies have also increased, many people now wind up being on the city payroll in retirement twice as long as they actually worked (soon the city will be paying 3-4 generations of workers for the same jobs).

    I support the NYPD/NYFD wholeheartedly and you are certianly entitled to what you have worked/contracted for, but many of the other city unions have used your contracts as leverage, so thousands upon thousands of civil servants are now entitled to these kinds of benefits as well.

    Have you thought about how much you would have to save during your career to collect a guaranteed $38,000 for 40 years?

    (Not that there are any guarantees for most of us in today’s economic climate (as interest rates are almost 0% and our 401Ks were cut in half)….)

    It’s in the millions of dollars, without even considering health insurance costs…..

    In terms of present value of what you will receive, you are actually earning 2-3 times that $76k, if not more…..

    Should be interesting to see if/how NYC is able to shoulder its pension obligations in the coming years….

  • willowtowncop

    @ Mr. Crusty- how is your example different than the firefighters mentioned in my example? How is it different than a constituent who wants a vote to go a certain way taking Bloomburg out to a fancy dinner.

    I can’t imagine a cop thinking he has to side with Chipotle during a customer dispute because of a stupid discount that wasn’t even his choice to give in the first place. You should know cops don’t get involved in civil matters anyway. You tell the customer that it isn’t a police matter unless you refuse to leave and if you refuse then you’ll be arrested for trespassing. It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong – cops are not judges.

    Its exactly like the ticket fixing. For years cops have had to turn in summonses written to certain politically connected groups at different precincts so bigwigs couldn’t call and make the captain fish it out of the box before it was too late, and every ADA in the city has a BS badge and a parking plaque and will threaten you if you pull them over, but if some patrol scum cops dares to think he can do it, he’s facing prison time and the ADA in the Grand Jury stops him from testifying about any VIPs who have the same favors done for them.

  • willowtowncop

    @ PJL – I wasn’t saying it was a good deal for the taxpayers. The retirement has gone up to 25 years for a half pension since I have been on the job and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went up higher before I retire. But you’re blaming the wrong people here. In the 90s when the private sector was getting rich, cops got 0% in their contract for years at a time. I’m an attorney and I know a lot of other cops who are too. They might not be the ones you encounter on the street, but one of the reasons they’re ok with getting paid much less than they could make at a firm is the generous retirement benefits. If the City wants the type of people they can get to do a difficult and dangerous job for minimum wage and no benefits, it will be digging its own grave.