Stories > How to bribe the Polish highway police - three simple steps

How to bribe the Polish highway police - three simple steps

Published 2020-09-27 by Administrator

Many people assume that I’m Swedish. It is a common misconception, since my last name is Ternström and the fact that I speak Swedish without a foreign accent. But, in reality, I am Polish.

Let me explain why:

I was born and spent my first years in Flemingsberg, a suburb of Stockholm. Flemingsberg was one of those project suburbs built in the late sixties that nowadays look like a complete disaster.

My mom came to Sweden in 1973, and I was born one year later. Every year, from that I was 2 years old, I was sent to my grandparents on the other side of the Baltic Sea. To the south west corner of Poland to be exact, in a city called Wroclaw. Here I spent at least three months every summer until I was about 14 years old and could violently protest my annual deportation.

It was my childhood friends in Wroclaw that taught me Polish, how to drive a moped, kiss girls and how to make smoke bombs. Everything you need for a harmonic childhood. In Wroclaw I stayed with my godfather. His name was Andrzej.

Andrzej was a larger-than-life entrepreneur. One of those self made men. Back then he had a potato chip factory. Beside being skilled at turning potatoes and fat into crisps, he was also the Olympic heavyweight champion in bribing the Polish highway police. As a youngster, I first handedly experienced his enormous talent in this special field. Often from the first row - the passenger seat of his white Mercedes - traversing the Polish countryside in search for potatoes to turn in to potato chips.

According to Andrzej, a bribe or "lapowka", as it is called in Polish, is considered an art form Poland. An art form he mastered into perfection during the 70’s and 80’s. Because, bribing the police is no easy task. In order to do it right, you need to have class and a finesse that few people possess. You can’t just shove a 500 zloty bill down a policeman’s pocket and drive off. If you do, chances are pretty high that you will be beaten up and sent to jail. After all, no police officer wants to be humiliated.

Andrzej taught me a three step process he thought was fit for a beginner. It starts by winning the trust of the police man. Without trust between both parties, you can’t bribe anyone. This is really difficult and takes years of practice. It’s a fine line between witty small talk and getting an alcometer shoved down your throat.

The next step is popping the question. Here’s solid advice. Andrzej taught me some code words. One good phrase would be “is there some alternative solution to this?”, or “perhaps we can find some other way to resolve this situation?”. Every Polish policeman that has been in the game for a while will now understand where you are going and the negotiation can begin. Usually, the police doesn’t want to negotiate for very long, and will give you a good price directly.

Handing over the cash comes next. Cash money should never, ever, be visible during the transaction. During those days you folded the bills into the car’s registration document and gave it to the police. The document had a nifty little pocket on the back side that was perfect for this purpose. The police then walked back to his car, “checked the documents” and came back. In some magical way the money had now been transferred into the policeman’s wallet. If you were a Swede, with a much more boring registration document, you could use your passport for the same purpose. I did, but thats a different story.

As an olympic heavyweight champion, there are numerous alterations of the process mentioned above. The absolute coolest one I saw from the passenger seat in Andrzej’s Mercedes during my childhood, was a time when the police didn’t want to be bribed at all. Actually, it all went straight to hell. The police man became very upset and walked back to his police car, shouting profanity back to my godfather and me.

A moment later, the policeman's colleague approached our car. He leaned in to drivers window and gave us the evil eye. His right hand resting at his gun. I thought this was my last moment alive. We would most certainly both be executed against a tree just south of Krakow.

Instead, Andrzej restarted the process all over with the new officer. And now was when I understood my godfather was a Jedi master. During the hand over, he put two hundred bills in the registration document while the police watched him from outside the window. At the same time he left one more hundred bill outside the registration document when he handed it over. The colleague then slowly walked back to the police car. he came back after just a minute. Everything was suddenly alright, and we were good to continue our journey.

So, what really happened there? The extra hundred bill outside the registration document ended up in the mans own pocket, long before he got back in the police car with his colleague. Do you think he told his friend that he really received 300? Or do you think that he opened the registration document and split the 200 that was in it? This way Andrzej bought us one police to convince the other.

Today, none of this is possible. Of course. Long gone are the times of the Wild West that was communist Poland during the 70’s and 80’s. A time when everybody, including the police, did whatever necessary to survive. Today, I can't recommend even trying to bribe a policeman in Poland. You will be in a lot of trouble if you do. A whole new level of morale now exists. Is this because the police all of a sudden got bad conscience? No. It’s because of totally different things.

The Polish government has been painfully aware of this problem for a long time. To resolve it, they increased the status of the police profession. Wages were raised. They now drive much better cars and have state-of-the-art equipment. To become a police officer today, you have to meet some pretty high admission requirements, including a language test in english.

Not everyone can become a Police officer anymore. Not like back then, when the average flunked out high school student could become a cop and start a lucrative side business on some country road in Poland.

As every year since 2005, we have a large group of friends with supercars going to Poland for Gran Turismo Polonia. Not to bribe Polish Police, but to drive on the excellent racing track Tor Poznan. We drive on many racing tracks each year. Yes, the track Tor Poznan is really great, even from a European perspective.

By: Peter Ternström

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