Montgomery County Police Chief Robert J. diGrazia said yesterday he has ordered an internal investigation of reports that his officers have been accepting free cups of coffee, magarines, soda and other items from county 7-Eleven stores.
"There's no such thing as a free cup of coffee," diGrazia said.
One of diGrazia's first official acts as police chief was to draw up an order prohibiting officers from soliciting or accepting "any gift or gratuity," including food or dring, while the officer was on duty. The order also prohibits officers from accepting anything free while off-duty "when [acceptance of the gift] could be construed as involving [their] position as a police employe."
Despite this, however, the assistant manager of the 7-Eleven on Laytonsville Road in the Washington Grove area said the store writes off $10- $20 a week in free coffee for officers. He said that one officer will often come in for free coffee for the entire police station. The Rockville station patrols the Washington area.
The manager said, however, that police officers are charged for all other items. "Only coffee and hot chocolate do they take for free," he said.
"Some just come in and grab a cup of coffee. Some insist on paying," said Ahmed Elfotoah, assistant manager at the Washington Grove store.
He said the district manager for Washington Grove 7-Eleven complained at a manager's meeting recently that the store was losing too much money on the officer's coffee.
"You know, it's good for our safety." Elfotouh said of the practice of giving out free coffee to officers. He said there have been at least three robbery attempts at the Washington Grove store in the past two years. The most recent attempt occurred last Thursday, he said. He was hit in the head by an object that he said felt like a baseball bat during a robbery when he was working at the 7-Eleven on Atlantic Avenue in Rockville and had to undergo surgery, he said.
One county officer from the Rockville station who asked not to be named, said many store owners and restauranteurs encourage officers to accept free meals and drink. "They see the cops as their comrades," the officer said.
"I would say that in any place that has cold drinks in the summer and hot drinks in the winter - in 99 percent of those places - they want the officers to have the drinks for free," the officer said.