Wisdom/Naivete

(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.”

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22 Comments on “Wisdom/Naivete”

  1. Barry Felcher says:

    Jim…George Dunne was a man without airs. He walked to work in the County Building weekdays from his home in 018 without bodyguards. One night in the late 1960s he was hospitalized. His family told the hospital not to release his condition. We reporters wondered if his condition was grave. If so, it would have been front page news. Dunne’s PR rep was also mum. On this night I would learn a lesson about going directly to the source. Sitting near Harold (Tommy) Tucker from Chicago’s American in the 11th & State press room, I heard Tucker call the hospital and ask to be connected with George Dunne’s room. When Dunne answered, Tucker identified himself and asked “Mr. Dunne, what condition are you in?” Dunne answered “good to fair.” Tucker had his scoop. — Barry Felcher d

    • jimpadar says:

      Going to the source… a valuable and simple tool. As I was writing Part II of the Lang story, I wanted to determine if he was still an inpatient at Chicago-Read. With the HIPPA rules it was near impossible to get any information on Lang’s whereabouts. So a few days before the story was to be published on my blog, I drove to Chicago-Read, ID’d myself to the security desk and asked if I could visit him. They asked me a few questions, while in the background I heard another person calling and inquiring if Lang “was back yet.” I asked if he had been transferred. No, no, he was just out for a medical visit and yes, he had returned. But since I was not family, they were reluctant to give me a visitor’s pass without supervisory approval and the supervisors were out to lunch. They invited me to wait, but no need. I had the information I wanted—Lang was still there. A two hour time investment for one sentence in the story; “As of this writing, Donald Lang remains in custody at the Chicago-Read Mental Health facility.”

      But you know all about that sort of thing…

  2. Steve Peterson says:

    Interesting encounter.

  3. Bob Hrodey says:

    Good story, Jim. Whatever else he may have been, George Dunne was a gentleman and a class act. His summer/weekend home was up here in McHenry County and as a patrolman with the county I don’t recall that we ever had any problems there with some rather large parties, etc. that would be held there. Towards the end of my career, while in investigations, I came across an elderly man in a nice ride at a country intersection just west of Dunne’s farm. He appeared to be having a bit of difficulty doing a U-turn. I pulled up next to him and rolled the window down to ask if he needed help. “No, thanks, I’m fine. Just took this car out for a spin and it hasn’t been driven much. The engine killed. Thanks so much for stopping, I live right over there (pointing to the Dunne property). Thanks so much for stopping though!” I recognized him, of course, and I doubt he made my car for an unmarked since we bought them right off the dealer’s floor. That was just the kind of man he was. Polite, respectful and courteous. Doubt that I would have liked to tangle with him on a political battlefield though. I hear he could hold his own

    • jimpadar says:

      George Dunne was no saint and I am certain he was a formidable political force. Beyond that however, he treated people well on day-to-day encounters. I agree… a class act!

  4. Mary Rita Shull says:

    This is great, Jim. Thank you.

  5. Silvia says:

    Thanks for that slice of life from long ago.

  6. Greg Bernacki (RET CPD) says:

    Pofessional Courtesy, sadly it is going by the wayside and the active new cops don’t have the foggiest idea of how to use it.
    The old pols (even if you didn’t agree with them) knew how to be courteous to the Police.

    OK Jim, it’s time to start on your book.

  7. Joanna Trotter says:

    Nice story, George Dunne was a friend of the family, they grew up together in the old neighborhood. I used to dance with him when I was a little girl at weddings and even a funeral (Irish). He was tough & stern but as charming as they come too. I just finished a family story that included him, so it was fun to read this.

  8. michael cohen says:

    One of the many things I like about is how you bring out your feelings. On its face it was just a routine traffic stop, but when you put your thoughts into it, it is so much more

  9. Kaye Aurigemma says:

    I enjoyed the George Dunne story, Jim. I worked for his nephew Tim Healy at the Harris Bank. Tim was also always a gentleman. Those big Irishmen had a certain flair about them. Nice!

  10. PhilL Sangirardi CPD Retired says:

    Great story Jim. Those days are gone but not forgotten.

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks Phil. You’re right—it’s a different world out there now, but I have a son on the job and he’s still having fun. Thank God for men and women like him!

  11. John says:

    The story should have ended, “Then I retired as a Commander of the Sheriff’s Police.” LOL

  12. Rich Rostrom says:

    After reading this, I think you might appreciate this story (from Boston):

    Me, I remember the story from a few years later about Dunne’s four lesbian girlfriends who all got county jobs,

  13. jim brown says:

    Jim

    nice story. Your partner leaving early reminds me of a day in fillmore when things were less strict. This policeman with a drinking problem said drop me at my car and cover for me the rest of the day. No time due slip. Just leave. All went well until a dog call where i had to put the noose on the dog..No help from my partner.. We did not run across any influential people that day. Jim Brown


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