CALLS for senior police in Victoria to ban the practice of officers accepting discounts from businesses have merit. It was revealed yesterday that a sports store in central Melbourne offers a 20 per cent discount on its product to officers in uniform. It was also reported that officers are known to receive discounts or free entry to some nightclubs, brothels and table-top dancing venues. Recent attempts by a Melbourne train operator to charge police officers _ whether working or not _ to travel was met with an outcry from officers and eventually dumped. As a result, police also get free public transport. And it's no secret that many McDonald's restaurants offer half-price deals to police members, a practice believed to operate at the fast food chain's stores around the world. A spokeswoman for Nike, the sports store in Melbourne, claimed the discounts were designed to encourage a police presence in the store. McDonald's has said in the past its discounts (offered at the discretion of individual store owners) were in recognition of the work our police do. No doubt other businesses would offer similar reasons for their generosity and such claims have merit. And certainly it is not illegal to offer such discounts. But officers who accept them are putting themselves in an awkward position should conflict arise, as has been the case with the Nike store, which is the subject on ongoing Friday-night protests attended by as many as 200 police officers. As one police ethics expert put it: "(Accepting the discounts) allows people to draw conclusions about police that may be false". A protester who came under police notice could conceivably accuse officers assisting Nike because the company had given them financial encouragement to do so, even though the claim may be entirely wrong. Without the discount offer, the accusation would have no legs. There are many major companies who have a policy where employees are required to declare gifts received in the line of duty. Senior police admitted yesterday its policy on discounts and freebies was "a grey areas". Clarity, then, is needed post haste. It may be that the police hierarchy declare its officers can accept half-price Maccas and free public transport. Whatever the case, clear guidelines are needed within the Victoria Police so that officers do not find themselves in compromising positions.