By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

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At a recent lunch meeting of the “Old Centurions,” the topic of the month was “largest or strangest bribe” you were ever offered. Okay, a little unusual or weird, but it made for some really great stories.

We listened to tales of folded $20 bills proffered with drivers’ licenses, impossible décolletage, creeping miniskirts, hooded glances, suggestive innuendos, and outright propositions.

LA however being LA, most officers assumed these situations were, as the intelligence people say, “honey traps.” The moment the copper accepted the “offer” a squad of internal affairs officers would spring from hiding and he would spend the rest of his life in a Turkish prison. 

As you can see bribery comes in many forms, and if fear keeps you honest, so be it.

When I tried to think of an instance when a bribe was offered, only one came to mind. It fit the bill perfectly. While working vice in the south end of town, I was assigned to the 3-man night watch gambling detail.

Illegal gambling consisted of dice/crap games and commercial card games. Most of our action was dice and we usually averaged several hundred arrests every month. We had 15-20 regular locations we checked every night and we also followed up on complaints.  

diceOn this particular night, while following up on a citizen’s complaint of a dice game, we “took” a small crap game at the location. It was unusual, however, in that there were only three “shooters” and the operator. In addition, the lighting was supplied by several red light bulbs only. Also unusual, the table was covered in what appeared to be $20 bills. When I went to turn the regular lights on, the operator pleaded with me not to. The $20’s turned out to be bad photo copies not noticeable under the reds. The operator and two cohorts were flimflamming a high roller.

During the booking process the operator in my presence offered our squad leader (a senior officer) one hundred dollars a month to let him operate.

Now 100 split three ways is $33.33 cents per man. Over a one-month period that amounted to $1.11 a day per man.

Mighty tempting. Yes, sir. 

Our leader turned him down with a counter offer. “Give us” two games per month and you get a pass. Now it was routine for operators to rat out the competition, so this was a win-win situation since his was such a small game we probably never would have bothered him again.

We laughed about it later as we never expected to hear from him again, and we also assumed that with his $20 scam, someone would kill him with in the year. 

Surprise, surprise: he began supplying us with dozens of arrests a month for some time after.

As to the one-year prediction—we were off by only a few months.