[btn]By Patty Talahongva[/btn]
Not too long ago, North Central resident Lenni Griego says someone rang her doorbell at 11 p.m. Since it was so late, she didn’t answer and instead called 9-1-1.

“I appreciate that we have that opportunity to call the police when we need them,” she says.

It is that feeling of appreciation that led North Central residents Scott and Mary Crozier to establish a gift card account for police officers at two Dutch Bros. Coffee locations, one at Central and Camelback, and the other at 12th Street and Glendale Avenue. At first, Mary tried to offer an officer a gift card directly, but the officer politely declined her offer saying it was against Police Department policy. So she approached the managers at Dutch Bros. and asked them to hold the card and use it when an officer came through the drive-thru.

Since then, other residents in the neighborhood have heard about the card and have donated to it as well.

It’s affectionately called the “Cop Card,” says Jeremy Rowell, a manager at the Central and Camelback Dutch Bros. location. He says the average balance is around $100, and officers can order anything on the menu. Most ask for a simple large black coffee while others who don’t drink coffee order an energy drink instead.

Not all police officers know about the card so it can be a nice surprise when they order and then are told the coffee is on the house … or in this case, on the gift card.

The two central Phoenix locations are the only ones that have such a card for police officers. Rowell says some officers decline the free drink and tell him to save it for the next officer. That sounds about right to Sgt. Tommy Thompson, who has been with Phoenix Police Department for 30 years and is one of the public information officers.

“We appreciate it, but we don’t encourage it,” he explains. “Our policy is we don’t accept gratuities.”

Thompson says he understands how people may want to say thanks to the officers and he stresses that the officers who have accepted the free coffee won’t get in trouble. In his years of being on the job he has seen several restaurants that offer free or discounted meals to anyone in uniform, so he understands the public’s desire to show their thanks to the police.

“It’s just awesome,” says Rowell. “It lets us know the officers, get to know them on a first-name basis.” He says on a typical day between 15 and 20 offices drive through the Central and Camelback location.

“We really have a great city and phenomenal citizens who go out of their way to support us,” says Thompson. “We’re fortunate to live in a city like this.”

Mary and her husband say they want to keep the card going. Griego agrees. “I’m most happy to do it,” she says. “Donating to their free coffee fund is the least I can do to thank them.”

Thompson stresses that another option is the 100 Club, which welcomes all donations. The fund was established to care for the families of officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty. Before any insurance money is collected, the family can get financial assistance from the 100 Club. You can donate at www.100club.org.

The group sponsors events throughout the year, including the Annual Run to Remember 5K Fun Run and Walk on March 8. The run will begin at 7:30 a.m. and sets off from the canal path adjacent to 2411 W. Peoria Ave. The Run/Walk is $20 and includes a T-shirt. Children younger than 10 can walk/run for free or can register for $5 and also receive a T-shirt. Visit the 100 Club website for details.


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