Claims that fast-food workers poisoned officers intentionally proved to be unfounded, but the ensuing uproar underscored a tense new dynamic.
Around 8:30 p.m. Monday, officials said, three New York City police officers stopped for milkshakes at a Shake Shack restaurant in Lower Manhattan.
The drinks had a bitter taste, and the officers began to feel sick. They were soon on their way to a hospital to be treated for possible poisoning, with reports quickly spreading that Shake Shack workers might have specifically targeted them because they were officers.
In the end, the incident did not appear to be nefarious, and the taste may have been tied to the faulty cleaning of a milkshake machine. Still, the brief but furious uproar it touched off highlighted how tense officers and their unions are feeling as they move about a city that has been roiled by protests over police brutality.
Weeks of protests inspired by the killing of George Floyd have increased scrutiny of the criminal justice system and systemic racism across the United States, including in New York City, with activists calling to “defund the police.”
The fallout in New York has been swift and substantial. The City Council proposed cutting the police budget by $1 billion. State officials enacted a set of reforms that included opening up police disciplinary records that had long been kept secret. The police commissioner said he was disbanding a plainclothes unit that had been involved in some notorious shootings.
The Police Department itself has already disciplined several officers for misconduct during the protests, which, while overwhelmingly peaceful, erupted at times into altercations between police clad in riot gear and demonstrators hurling projectiles.