Chicago Cops: My First Bribe: $20

Dateline Chicago 1981:

I was eighteen years old and driving a taxi. You had to be at least twenty-five to drive for Yellow Cab, but I had a fake license. In those days it was very easy to get a fake license. The Illinois Licenses didn’t have a picture on them in those days! Even at the time I knew that was a dumb idea. All we did was put some white-out on our birth certificate and take a copy. The copy looked good, except for not having the seal. A lot of people did that.

So there I was, eighteen, driving a cab in Chicago, and struggling to make ends meet with a baby already at my age.

I was on my way home after a long days work, and was just about one mile from home. I pulled out of a Clark Gas station at 3100 W. North Avenue. As I pulled out, I cut off a cop car that was rolling westbound. I had just smoked a joint, and I had no taillights on my cab… Oops.

So naturally, the cops pulled me over. I rolled down my window as he walked toward me and I saw the smoke streaming out, as did the officer. (Another oops.)

He approached and asked for my license. I handed it to him and he noticed the smell. One whiff of my cab left no doubt on the cop’s mind. He said, “I’ll bet money if I look in your ashtray I’ll find some roaches.” And I admitted it was true.

I had some money in my shirt pocket, which he noticed, and he prodded his finger in there and said, “Maybe we can work something out. We haven’t had any dinner yet.”

I always heard you can give a Chicago cop twenty bucks and get off the hook for minor traffic offenses, but until this day I hadn’t actually done it yet.

I responded, “I only made forty bucks today, go easy on me.” Truth be told, I probably made a hundred, but I didn’t want to let him know that.

He answered, “We’re not that hungry.” I agreed, and he said, “Just sit in your cab for a couple of minutes, then walk back to the squad car.”

I complied, and got a twenty-dollar bill ready. A few minutes went by and I walked up to the driver’s window. He looked around carefully, then said, “Just put your hands on my door, and casually drop it inside the car.” His window was rolled down all the way, so I rested my two hands on the door and let the twenty slide into his car.

He saw it, handed me my license and said, “Have a good night.”

I thanked him and went on home. It was well worth the twenty bucks, and I thought the cops deserved a little extra money anyway, considering all the risks they take at their job.

That was the true story of my first bribe ever. At the time, I had no idea what the next few years would lead me to. But I wound up being a chaser, and slipping cops fifty-dollars many, many times after that. But there’s something special about your first bribe.

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