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Ask A Cop: Accepting gratuities?

Editor's note: Every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers your questions in this space. Please send your questions to reporter Cliff Newell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

"Do you accept gratuities?"

PETERSONOfficers from the Lake Oswego Police Department and officers throughout the State of Oregon are prohibited from accepting gratuities. A gratuity is when a person gives an officer something for free. For example, officers are not allowed to accept a free meal, a free cup of coffee at a restaurant, money as a tip or other items of value.

The Lake Oswego Police Department strives to adhere to a high ethical standard. We appreciate the sentiment of someone offering to pay for our meal, but we must refuse. It is not meant to be rude or unappreciative of what is being offered. It is that we are prohibited and could face discipline.

An exception to this rule is when an officer attends a function in which food or beverages are offered to multiple people. For example, when an officer attends a neighborhood barbecue and is there to socialize with the people in attendance, he or she can have a burger or another item that is offered to all the other people in attendance. Officers have attended functions like this and enjoy spending time with our citizens.

Even off duty police officers in Oregon are prohibited from accepting special deals offered to them as a result of their status as a police officer and not a general member of the public. The rule of thumb is this: if the offer or deal is available to the general public, then the officer can accept the offer as well. This rule is a good thing for the officers and the public. It stops officers from using their position of trust with the public to benefit themselves. It reduces the chances of police corruption and the perception of the officers then owing the person that gave them the gift.

The police department is allowed to accept gifts to the department as a whole, like cookies or coffee. The gift cannot be for one specific officer. If it comes in for one specific officer, they share it with the department as a whole. For example, if an officer receives a coffee gift card around the holidays, the officer takes the gift card and turns it over to the department. The department then uses that gift card to purchase coffee for department-wide functions or meetings.

Officers with the Lake Oswego Police Department serve the public with no expectation of gifts. What the officers really appreciate is a wave and smile, or a simple “hello” and “thanks” if you want to show your gratitude.



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