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Part 2 – Where’s a Police Officer to Get a Cup of Coffee? – and Why I write

By Cornelia Seigneur

When I blogged about the experience I had at a local café in Portland where my daughter and I were having a quiet conversation with a Portland Police officer before we were interrupted by the café owner, who asked the police officer to leave, I never dreamed that the response would be so passionate or so numerous — to be honest, I don’t receive a lot of comments on my blog. I suppose I have not written about such an emotional issue before. I surely did not intend any controversy or to bash an establishment. I merely wanted to share my story. (I had actually gone to the Red and Black out of curiosity as I was working on a story for The Oregonian about Matt Mikalatos, the author of the book Imaginary Jesus, whose story is set at the Red and Black.)

I just had to write about it.

I write because that is how I process life. I write because I have to put my heart on paper. I write because I like to share stories. I write to bring light to the world. I write to share good things people are doing. And, as a believer, I write for justice.

I write because I have to write. It is what I do. It is who I am.

As I read through the comments, I am amazed at the amount of support that the Police enjoys in this city. I am intrigued with the many articulate thought provoking comments people made about the good that the police do. I was moved by the comments from the families of Police, Fire or EMT who serve tirelessly without a lot of fanfare or recognition.

I think of the comments from supporters of the decision of the café to ask the police officer to leave its establishment. I was surprised at how volatile people were toward the Police in general, and not just Portland Police. One comment implied that I had not taken the time to find out what the café owner believed and why they felt “unsafe” with the officer there. I did speak at length with the café co-owner, and we just did not get very far as he spoke of this notion how, in the case of a robbery, he would call his friends rather than the police. What does that look like practically, I wondered?

One reader commented that I was simply a white, suburbanite who has no idea what it is like in North Portland. And I answer that the very point of what I was trying to talk to the police officer at the café about, was our Sudan refugee friends who lived in North Portland, one of whom – a 14 year old — the Police saved.

As I spoke with the café owner, I really never got a direct answer as to why he personally felt unsafe with a police officer in his establishment.

Bottom line, I think especially of the policeman I met at the red and black, Officer James Crooker, a human being who should be treated with respect and honor, like all human beings. I think of how humiliating it must have been to be asked to leave a café for no other reason than your profession. It was pure and simple discrimination. Yet, he handled it with such class and dignity. I was sad for him. My point was not to start a dialogue of whether people felt Police was necessary in America, but instead to simply ask why was a police officer asked to leave a café?

I wanted the police officer to know that so many people support what they do to try to keep the rest of us safe. He kept talking about the importance of education. What the officer wants is to start a dialogue in this city, to talk reasonably about issues, to let them know he will always respond with kindness to people even if they are unkind. He is there to do his job.

What I did not want to happen in my original blog post was for it to become a place for meanness and finger pointing and name calling. I just wanted to share my story, to bring light to what happened. There were several blog comments that I just did not want to publish as they used profanity and speculation and labeling. From both sides of the issue.

My hope is the same as what the officer hopes for — open conversation, honest dialogue, without name calling. For justice on all sides.

Exactly the reason why I write.

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Posted in Community Service, Culture, Faith, Gratitude, Justice, Life, Live the Questions, Outreach, Refugees, Writing.

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103 Responses

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  1. John says

    Just like in society there are probably 10 percent of the people who are bad and a real threat to law abiding citizens, the same is probably true for police officers. Unfortunately, the 90 percent of police officers DO NOT root out the 10 percent which make law abiding citizens like the cafe owner not want them around. The small number of cops make it bad for them all but most departments are too stupid to realize it and take appropriate criminal action against rogue cops, which DO EXIST!

  2. Martin says

    Stumbled over this and would like to just add one important links to this discussion:

    If you look into the summary report, you will find that police officers are disproportionally breaking the law (compared to the public overall) and that they are as well disproportionally escape punishment (the blue wall).

    On a second thought, while the crime rate of legal concealed carry weapons holders is substantially lower than the crime rate of the population, the crime rate of police is about double that of the population. The reasons for such can be found in sociological-economical backgrounds of the according state and individuals.

    Maybe your unfounded trust in all things uniform should be critically inspected. Also note that this does in no way try to explain why the coffee shop owner acted as he did.

  3. blacktack says

    I seriously don’t get what the issue is. Yes, it was career discrimination and the officer understood and accepted that, saying that he understood it was because of the uniform and not the person, plus he did actually get his coffee. I’m sure he is a good cop and actually enforces laws and catches dangerous criminals( wasn’t he supposed to be out there catching criminals instead of hanging out in cafes, anyway?). But the reason he was kicked out was because most of the people there had experienced the bad kind of cop before and were afraid of him because they did not know him and whether he was a good cop or a bad one. I’m sure if he had returned not in uniform he would have been allowed to stay there as long as he pleased. The truth is they probably should have had a vote to kick him out, but there are better issues to be worrying about. Actually, this article was good, since it raised awareness of the red and black cafe and helped them buy the building they work in and make better food. So, thank you.

  4. PJ says

    You need to wake up and stop being deluded about the police. In the USA, they’re trained to act aggressively and confrontationally, and to ignore rights and follow Nazi orders. They’re Nazis and Langley was right to kick the guy out. Now instead of just automatically going into unthinking “cops are good” mode, actually RESEARCH what I just wrote.

  5. Neil says

    Great post. The owner(s) of the Red and Black Cafe showed their true colors: Arrogant Hypocrites, Elitists, Narrow-Minded BIGOTS.

  6. Phyllis Loya says

    As the mother of an officer fatally shot in the line of duty in 2005, I was appalled to read of the discriminatory treatment of a Portland officer in the Red and Black Cafe. The sad fact is that no matter how lousy the attitude of that restaurant’s owners/staff, the police will come to their aid if they need police help. Their protestations that in the event of trouble, the staff would call their friends for help is just plain silly. Like everyone else, they would dial 911 and a responding officer would show up, even if it meant risking his/her life. I have been steamed since reading of this encounter…no doubt these folks believe in karma and laws of attraction and so do I. We just probably have very different opinions of what would be just. Thank you for your support of the brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement from a mom who understands all too well the sacrifice those serving their community make each time they pin on a badge and go to work to keep us safe.

    Phyllis Loya, mother of fallen officer Larry Lasater, Pittsburg PD (CA), eow 4/24/05

  7. Laurie says

    What saddens me is in the midst of so many police officers being murdered simply because of their uniform this co-owner of a business would ask an officer to leave for the same reason. He was fine taking his coffee money but not okay with this officer talking to a lady about how important education is? As a business owner myself I am appalled. As a wife of a police officer who is kind, has saved lives, and seen thing you never want anyone to see, I am appalled. I am appalled at the discrimination of those who dislike police officers and how they are acting this out in public—killing four Lakewood officers because of their badge? Either this ‘manager’ does not read the news or he’s heartless. One day he will thank an officer because whether he likes it or not, they will come to the rescue of someone he knows and/or loves—fate has a funny way of working. Officer Crooker, you are a CLASS ACT and do your badge proud!! Mr. Co-owner, I hope you go out of business. You are a disgrace to business owners and our country. I know that sound mean, but we have no room for this kind of hatred in our society.

  8. Calfed says

    I wonder how a soldier in uniform would be treated in the Red and Black.

  9. Calfed says

    Divided by zero–this is why everyone should feel threatened by anarchists and the ELF/ALF movement

  10. Brown Girl of the SE says

    “Sudan refugee friends”
    LOL. Such a White person thing to do: writing about having “Black” friends in order to downplay her/his privilege.

  11. marius says

    Beautiful writing Cornelia. Keep it up. Because of you, i go out of my way to say “thank you” to every police officer I meet from now on…

  12. Theresa says

    I think that there is more to the story than a police officer being denied his human rights. He was in uniform. That changes his status from regular citizen to militarized law enforcement officer. Whether you agree or disagree with the use of force, Portland Police are known for it. I think that even people who think police officers are wonderful humans can detect the trail of the problem there. In addition, many other businesses in Portland refuse to serve people based on decisions similar to profession and association. It is considered acceptable in those contexts. Police officers are not saints. Non-traditional people are not sinners. It’s a complex situation that deserves more thought than knee-jerk reactions.

  13. Gina says

    It just amazes me that thi sguy would do something like that. He was “offended” because the officer came in for a cup of coffee in uniform, and even has the nerve to say he wouldn’t serve the officer again if he came in. My question is, who will he call if someone causes problem in his lovely establishment, or robs him? Yeap, he will call the cops. Perhaps the responding officers should say that they won’t respond to his place because they don’t want to offend him, but unlike this pathetic guy, the responding officers have too much class and will still respond if called by him

  14. Sam says

    Some of these responses are really scary in their paranoia. Living in Portland, using Trimet for hours upon hours of commuting each week, I realize that there are some truly unhinged individuals living here, but when you read their dillusions in black and white, it makes me glad the police are out there as well! I think I’ll thank the next one I see, particularly if they are on the MAX.

  15. S. Wells says

    The convesation here for Portlanders is what do you stand for? Do you stand for acceptance, diversity, justice, kindness, and all the other phrases that come to mind when thinking about a progressive, modern city which is known as being “different”..or better yet “weird”? Do we want to be weird because we discriminate, are mean spirited, hateful, and do not embrace all peoples, or do we want to be different because we epitomize acceptance…no matter who or what you are?
    My personal opinioin of most policman…and I have lived in many large and small cities, have traveled extensively, is that most are your friends. Of course that is the way I approach everyone, no matter how they are dressed, what color they are, what profession they have, or what nationality. I dont just talk the talk of non-discrimination, I actually live it. That’s what I loved about Portland…we are committed to the practice of what we preach in the area of diversity. Hopefully, this will instill in everyone a new perspective on that commitment.

  16. tommycop says

    Itst his business he can have who he wants to come in and serve and thats final and can say who he serves and thats final. police its there job i ma cop i get paid to do it….just like a plumber or banker or lawyer or dog groomer or farmer or babysitter or nanny….if your job attends with the capacity to get you killed then it your fault you know the risks of the job and again you get paid to do it…its just a job…..period your no special to any other citizen in the usa…period get over over it portland police supporters its a job a guy doesnt want to serve him its his busines no questions asked its his business….period!!!!!!

  17. Against-Violence-Towards-Innocents says

    That life that was saved by a cop would not have been in danger if the police did not enforce all the laws (the War on People who use unapproved of medicine, prostitution prohibition, etc.) that create the violent gangs. Owners of liquor stores aren’t in shootouts. The police create immensely more crime than there would be without them, yet when someone robs you the chance of the cops getting your stuff back is slim to none. All this idolatry is very disheartening. And the Nuremberg defense of just following orders is no excuse. But thank you for bringing attention to this example of private heroism.

  18. gregory white says

    I lived in Portland for over 10 years. For the past four years I have lived in Louisiana.While living in a drug infested corner of N.E. Mallory&Failing St.,I got to see first hand the need for the P.D. Love them,Hate them, but we all need them. Besides,cops& coffee= Peace!

  19. Maria says

    since you have written yr hilarious piece our beloved cafe has seen record sales and received international support. Thanks for the free advertisement. Never thought a pathetic busy body like yourself could be so useful.

  20. steve says

    Way to go officer crooker for his professionalism.I am a new york city cop,and have been denied to use the bathroom in an establishment.Just laughed it off and stopped by every day for a week to ask to use it again.

  21. Diana says

    Kudos to the officer for having such grace and composure. Police officers should never be treated like this. They put their lives on the line to serve us.

    God works in mysterious ways sometimes but this time I think it is evident to see you were there to be a witness and do his work with love and respect, just like the officer. Write it sister!

  22. Nick Pell says

    Actually, Red And Black have been known to have problems far worse than police officers staging obvious naked provocations. Without getting into details, suffice it to say that the R&B folks aren’t in the habit of calling the cops when the spit hits the fan.

    All that you need to know about this writer–politically, personally and professionally–is that her only article about Portland police deals with the “injustice” suffered by an officer asked to leave a cafe after being served his coffee. She has written a grand total of zero words about people murdered by Portland police. That she can touch off a right-wing firestorm of backlash should come as a surprise to no one. Indeed, there is never a shortage of nervous, middle class elements to provide their services, free of cost, to the power of reaction and repression.

  23. B says

    That cafe owner is a simple minded idiot but he probably things of himself as progressive.

    I hope people will take action by spreading the word and not eating there.

  24. Ryan says

    Considering the typical customers are targeted by police and some of them likely had their faces bashed and/or have been arrested by police illegally, it makes sense.

  25. Detroit Don says

    Come live in Detroit. You will wish more cops were in your shop. And if you made that statement on 7 mile son about not calling the police they would not only rob you but strip your building down to the foundation just to get all the copper to scrap and not one friend you called could do a thing to help you in this town.

  26. Tina says

    I hope that place goes out of business.

  27. will says

    I am old enough to realize what a-hole people can be, still it comes as a shock. Some people who thinkthey are so free are so hateful. we needcops to protect us from the idiots who think they are sooo cool.

  28. Jim says

    Don’t feel bad for the officer, Ms. Siegneur; feel bad for the cafe owner, who chooses to paint the police with a broad brush. I’m sure the cafe owner believes he has commands a higher level of enlightenment, but, unfortunately, his discriminatory, closed-minded views prove otherwise.

    I find it very ironic that a business establishment that exercises socialism would be so anti-police when socialist governments seem to have to the most oppressive police forces.

  29. Tim says

    We all know, that if there was a situation in that coffee shop, one where there was danger, that the Communists (and look at their web site, that’s what they are) would be calling, crying, and begging for the police to show up.

    So not only is it disrepectful of them, it also shows what hypocrites they are.

    Thanks again for standing up for the Officer (and war vet as well).

  30. Adam says

    First of all Bravo Zulu to Officer Crooker for being a professional. Just a little reminder to the co-owner of the Red and Black. If you decide to call your friends instead of the police to help you in a bad situation things could go wrong rather quickly. I hope that you have considered what the inside of a 6 by 8 foot room looks like, because that is exactly where you could spend the remainder of your days. Have the respect for what the officer is trying to do and stand for. You were disrespectful to one of the good ones. You know the conversation that he was having would have only last a few minutes, because he would have to be back on patrol very quickly. An open apology to him and the police department as a hole will go a long ways, Just some food for thought. Oh and don’t worry, I really don’t think that any other officer will ever give your establishment any business ever again.

  31. CubbyBear82 says

    I am grateful that you wrote about this. I hope that my young ones follow the example that the Portland Police Officer set. He did not take the owner’s wishes personally, understands his role as a police officer, and does not allow people’s ignorance of the job to influence his reactions (ignorance in this case is defined as not knowing all aspects of what it is like to be a police officer). Many police officers are good people; for this officer to react in this manner is a great testament to who he is and a fine example to the profession. Thank you for showing the good side of the profession. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  32. Bruce says

    Actually, KP, as a public accommodation – the owner does NOT have a right to deny service to anyone. That aside, as a retired (25 years) New York City PD officer I’d like to compliment Cornelia for her graciousness towards the officer. Let’s see how the owners remark that if he was robbed he’d call his friends rather than the cops works out for him. I expect the cops will come anyway because that’s their job and they do it even for people who don’t like them much, and in the likely event it would be to hang a toe tag on his body.
    I don’t personally expect the Portland department will miss not grabbing a cup of coffee at the Red and Black anyway.

  33. Rick says

    I think a “coffee summit” with President Obama and these three – the employee, the officer and the customer/blogger, is in order.

  34. Ed Cocks says

    Thank you for your thoughts and recounting of the situation Ms. Seigneur.

    Actually, the police officer mentioned that one reason he stopped for a cup of coffee at the location is to build his awareness of the establishments in his district. That sounds reasonable to me. I also suspect he wanted a cup of coffee between calls. Like one of the other posters I think it interesting that they served him first, THEN told him he was not welcome. Like Ms. Seigneur, my feeling was the officer deserved far better and responded as best he could under the circumstances of dealing with a fool during the course of his work.

    There is a guy in Nashville, Tennessee who delights in walking up and down public streets with a pink-painted AK pistol. I believe he has the right to do so, yet also believe he’s a fool as well. In this particular incident, the owner is certainly within his rights to refuse customers service. I also think he’s a fool as well. My personal decision, not subject to debate.

    Equally, customers are free to patronize other establishments more to their liking as to environment and community attitude. I am sure there are Starbucks in the area and they have no problem with customers and firearms. I urge those offended to vote with their dollars for those businesses which reflect their values and beliefs while providing a safe and pleasurable experience.

    I Open Carry often, Concealed Carry the rest of the time and always have a firearm at hand unless there is a valid ban on possession in the location, an individual homeowner has expressly stated they will not tolerate firearms in their home or the business owner has expressly stated that armed customers are not welcome in their establishment. In those instances I take my business and socializing elsewhere. Next time I visit Portland, I’ll do my best to remember to stay away from the Red and Black Cafe. As I said, I am sure there is a Starbucks or two which will welcome my business.

  35. Michelle McCarthy says

    I want to thank you for standing up to do what is right! A Police Officer is there to protect us. Only if you’ve broken the law or don’t do as they ask are you upset with them for doing their duty. My hats off to each and every one of them! And my hats of to you for speaking the truth about what happened. With any luck and the smartness of people in general, that coffee the Cafe owner sold to the PO will be the last!

  36. Eric Harman says

    every police officer in portland knows what the red and black is. period. ask the officer. he’ll tell you.

  37. Pat says

    I am a Retired Michigan State Trooper with 33 years of service to the citizens of Michigan. Officer Crooker can be proud of himself and his profession. Proud of himself because of his dignity and restraint. Proud of his profession because he chose it with the desire to better his community. It is sad that any citizen would do what the owner of the cafe chose to do, but as the owner, he has the right to choose to whom he shall serve in his cafe. I would hope that nothing bad would happen to the cafe owner that would nessitate calling 911 for assistance. Apparently he has stirred up a hornet’s nest. I believe that he just has no idea what is involved in law enforcement and the dangers that officers face every day. I worked me entire career on the streets…. Glad I am retired and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change my career path for one second. Officer Crooker is an asset to his agency and his command officers should be proud of him also.

  38. Dirty Dancer says

    Yeah for the Red and Black–take the po po’s money and kick them to the curb–
    This whole thing seems like a set up to me…

  39. JF says

    Bravo to Officer Crooker and his committment to our community. It’s amazing to me that after all of the huge triumphs for civil rights, that a police officer who is bound to uphold such laws for the benefit of the community, at his own peril, is discriminated against. The owner had no problem taking his money! The Red and Black Cafe’s actions are an embarrassment to the City of Portland. They are no different then those who refused service to African Americans. Makes a person wonder what is in that building that would make the owner feel uncomfortable?

  40. Laura says

    Subject: Police officer ride-along

    I am a 47-year-old mother of two young children living in Raleigh Hills. We have a family friend who is a police officer in Vancouver WA. Several years ago, I took him up on the offer of a “ride along”. It was one of the best decisions I have made. I have a whole new understanding of the job and a year’s worth of experiences from one evening. At no time did I feel unsafe.

    Your ability to write coupled with the officer’s offer to take you with him could be very compelling reading. I urge you to consider his offer.

    I certainly found your recent postings enlightening, heartening, and extremely well written.

    Happy Friday to you.


  41. Michael Dodson says

    Mrs. Seigneur,
    Thank You for producing a classy, informative, well written from the heart article. I normally do not follow blogs but I think I will follow yours now. Have a great weekend!
    And Thank You to all our Law Enforcement personnel for protecting and serving us.

  42. KP says

    While I don’t share the business-man’s opinion of cops, he certainly has the right to refuse service to anyone he chooses for any reason he chooses. I don’t think he made the right choice in this instance, however, and I’m sorry that any cop had to go through that, let alone Jim Crooker. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jim while he was an officer in CdA. Just one more thing to come along and make me wonder why a cop stays a cop for so long…after everything they do for others – why?

  43. nenika says

    Wow. Cornelia, Officer Crooker, and an idiot come together for a few seconds and the world hears about it, discusses it and takes sides. Clearly people who have access to the internet (perhaps better educated judging from the writings on this blog) are intelligent enough to know who is in the right. Very few in favor of the idiot. Good thing, too (just so you know where I stand). Great reading material; better than a good book. Maybe all three will get asked to be on Oprah or the Larry King Show. And hey, maybe the idiot will actually agree to show up, open his mouth, and continue to say stupid things and get booed off the air. His cafe will lose business and close down, and he’ll be homeless and the police will tell him to stop defecating in my doorway and move on off the sidewalk. Then he will hate the cops all the more. Sigh, will it never end?

  44. dazee says

    All discrimination isn’t equal. A police getting tossed from a coffee shop is small potatoes compared with abusive law enforcement tactics like racial profiling. This is a golden opportunity for police to feel what the victims of their bigotry go through all too routinely and strive to obey the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.

    I am going to be drinking beaucoup coffee at the Red & Black.

  45. Randall says

    Thank-you so much for this blog. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw this on, so I clicked it. I was completely disgusted. As a former fast food manager, I can honestly say I would never kick out a police officer. Heck we always gave cops free coffee, and i had a few that would come through drive through for refills. It’s good for business and security. Even if that cop isn’t there at the time a guy is out robbing places, if he cases the establishment, and sees cops in there all the time, he’ll likely go somewhere else.

  46. Heather says

    I wouldn’t even have a clue what Red & Black meant & easily would have stopped in for coffee if I were in the area.

    Why must the officer *know* everything about that establishment as well? Isn’t Portland a big city? If it wasn’t in his normal area perhaps he, just like me, needed a cup of joe to kick start his brain.

    How absolutely asinine of the owner to TAKE the money THEN deny him the right to stay.

    To the officer, thank you for all you do to keep Portland safe and acting like a grown-up when Mr. Langley had his power trip.


  47. Brad says

    My 84 year old mother recognized some of the faces from the crowd of criminals that were in the riots in Portland recently. No wonder his clientelle feels uncomfortable around police, they are a bunch of criminals. what does that say for who the manager throws out and keeps?

  48. Vasia says

    In the history of the 911 emergency program, Langley and his business establishment may be the first to get a recorded message that states… “You are the fifth person in line. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was taken…”

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Portland Police Provocation at Anarchist Coffee Shop | Disinformation linked to this post on December 16, 2010

    […] a police officer was asked to leave by a co-owner. A local blogger was outraged (enough so to revisit the subject), the insipid Portland hipster yuppie press picks it up and the national media has a field day […]

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