(Chicago, 1969—018th Police District)
The young police officer had started his tour of duty on the 3-11 shift as a two man car, but his partner had taken a few hours of compensatory time on the end and now he found himself working a one man car on Chicago’s near north side. It was late in the evening. He was new at this police stuff and was just a bit uncomfortable working by himself. What to do?
Traffic! That would be it. He had written his expected moving traffic citation for the shift, but it never hurt to turn in two if the opportunity arose. And he could pick and choose his violator, avoiding any carloads of gang-bangers from the nearby Cabrini Housing projects.
There it was! A yellow late model Ford Mustang just missed the green traffic signal, northbound on Wells Street at Chicago Avenue. It was close, but definitely red. The glimpse he got of the driver was that of an older male Caucasian. He hit the mars light and with a quick left turn, swung in behind the violator’s vehicle. The little Mustang pulled to the curb immediately and the officer positioned the squad so as to provide a safety margin for himself as he moved toward the car. The driver rolled down his window as the policeman approached.
“What seems to be the problem officer?” asked the well dressed gentleman about 60 years of age.
“The light back there was red when you drove through the intersection. May I see your license please?” The policeman bent his knees a bit to get a better look at the passenger, a nicely dressed woman about the same age as the driver. “Piece of cake” thought the officer from the safety aspect. “I can do this.”
“I’m sorry officer, I thought it was still yellow.” He handed his driver’s license out the window.
With the license in hand, the officer started his game. It was always the same. Let the driver talk himself out of the ticket. There were more than enough hostile drivers to provide him with ample moving violations. A few kind words, almost any type of excuse and the man and his wife would be on their way. Besides, he already had a mover for the night. He looked at the license and at the man—“A distinguished looking gentleman,” thought the officer.
“Who do you work for, Mr. Dunne?” That was always a good opening. There were probably a dozen or more occupations that got an automatic pass, contingent upon their demeanor of course… and this man was more than pleasant and warm, not a hint of hostility or attitude.
“Cook County.” was the reply. That was that—this would be a pass, but officer pressed on for some strange reason, maybe hoping to kill a few more minutes remaining on his shift.
“And what do you do for Cook County?”
The driver smiled, just slightly, and took a business card from his wallet.
George W. Dunne, President
Cook County Board of Commissioners
There was a moment of stunned silence before the officer gathered his wits. This man was arguably the second most powerful politician in the Chicago/Cook County hierarchy of politics and this naive rookie hadn’t recognized him.
“Oh! That Mr. Dunne!” said the young cop as he attempted a graceful recovery of sorts. He handed the drivers license back.
“Please be careful, Mr. Dunne… we wouldn’t want anything to happen to you,” continued the patrolman in the most urbane tone he could muster.
“Thank you officer,” he replied.
The rookie turned to leave, but the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners wasn’t finished yet.
“Officer!” he called. The policeman paused and turned slightly, his pulse quickened just a bit. He just wanted to crawl away. The traffic stop was okay, but once he had license in his hand he should have tumbled as to just who he had stopped. “Now what does he want?” thought the cop.
“You be safe out here.”
“Thank you sir.”