On Monday, three New York police officers were hospitalized after getting milkshakes from the burger chain Shake Shack while on duty. Almost immediately, the Police Benevolent Association, one of New York’s largest police unions, issued a statement—claiming that the three were poisoned with bleach and warning officers that they were in constant danger from citizens who want to hurt and kill them, even when they were getting take-out.
But apparently the PBA made that lengthy condemnation prematurely. Chief of detectives Rodney Harrison released a statement at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, saying, “After a thorough investigation by the NYPD’s Manhattan South investigators, it has been determined that there was no criminality by shake shack’s employees.” CBS News reports that the officers’ illness may have been an accident caused by cleaning solution not properly cleared out of the milkshake machine, but so far there haven’t been any other reported instances of customers getting sick at the same time and in the same way.
Shake Shack, for its part, responded, “Our team is working hard to get the full picture. In the meantime, we’re relieved to hear the officers are all okay.”
New York’s police unions have a reputation for melodrama. In 2019, the NYPD commissioner chose to fire Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014 by using an illegal choke hold; responding to the decision, head of the PBA Pat Lynch declared, “The job is dead. Our police officers are in distress. Not because they have a difficult job, not because they put themselves in danger, but because they realize they’re abandoned.”
The Sergeants Benevolent Association is similarly known for unhinged rants. After Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter Chiara was arrested at a peaceful protest, the SBA referred to her as a “rioting anarchist” and falsely claimed she was throwing objects at police. The SBA has also tweeted that NYPD officers are “declaring war” on de Blasio and the people who voted for him.
This also isn’t the first time that police have tried to gin up public sympathy by claiming, wrongly, that service workers have been out to get them. Last January, an Indianapolis officer claimed that he was served a McDonald’s chicken sandwich that already had a bite taken out of it, which he told local news was a clear indication of anti-police sentiment. It turns out he took the bite himself before putting the sandwich in a fridge and then “forgot.”
Similarly, a police chief in Kansas took to social media to complain about one of his officers receiving a cup of McDonald’s coffee with “fucking pig” written on it. Turned out the officer actually wrote it himself, apparently “as a joke.” The police chief refused to release the officer’s name—apparently once the incident moved from “police harassment” to “police lying,” it stopped being a matter of public concern.