The uniquely American myth that the police are here to protect and to serve the public is disintegrating rapidly. Protests around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have underscored that the American police system is broken and needs to be dismantled; police brutality is a part of this country’s bloody history, and now, after years of pressure, it seems that there are cracks in the firmament. Whether or not these cracks will extend towards real change is debatable, but one thing is clear: Cops are not the victims, though they insist on playing this card time and time again.
False claims of the general public targeting the innocent police via food contamination proliferate, especially in fast food chains. On Monday, three NYPD officers claimed that they were poisoned at a Shake Shack, after drinking milkshakes and feeling sick to the stomach. In response to what was painted as an attack on the boys in blue, the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York released a statement that doubled down on the false accusation, writing “When New York City police officers cannot even take a meal without coming under attack, it is clear that environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level.” Their claims were swiftly debunked; the milkshakes in question had been inadvertently contaminated with a cleaning agent used to clean the machine in question. In January, a Kansas City police chief resigned after admitting that he wrote “Fucking pig” on a McDonald’s cup and blamed it on the employees as a joke. And on Tuesday, a video that has now gone viral surfaced on Twitter, of a police officer named Stacey having a nervous breakdown over the service she received at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Georgia.
The video is over two minutes long and depicts a woman who seems stressed out for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. She says she went to the McDonald’s, ordered a breakfast, and received her coffee first before the rest of her food. The delay in delivery of the rest of her meal is nothing out of the ordinary, but Stacey takes it personally. “Don’t bother with the food right now, because I’m too nervous to take it,” she says, her voice breaking. “Right now I’m too nervous to take a meal from McDonald’s because I can’t see it being made.... Please just give us a break.” Though we will never know if Stacey waited the extra minute or so for her Egg McMuffin and her hash browns, her point has been made: being a police officer in America is to be a victim.
It’s notable that the incidents that eventually go viral are taking place in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Shake Shack where employees are likely working-class and have largely been working for the duration of the pandemic. As this video and the other incidents mentioned seem to suggest, the threat against blue lives is everywhere, too. The subtext of these videos is not actually that the police are the victims, but that they are pushed to their breaking point by the protests and so their unlawful and brutal methods of restoring law and order to an unruly society are therefore justified. Never mind the fact that an employee working the McDonald’s drive-thru window or preparing the Egg McMuffin in question in the back likely doesn’t want to risk losing a job over a prank—the police believe they are here to serve and protect, and if they feel victimized by the public that is supposed to respect them, what else is there to do but cry?