DR Police May Try
to Shake You Down
for Money

It's not supposed to happen but it does.

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This took place in Santo Domingo but it also occurs in the countryside. Although I realized what was going on from the start, but it still was a little tense at times.

I have to admit this never happened again--to me--though a friend headed for the airport lost US$50 to a uniformed policeman.

Fortunately, this shake-down practice isn't rampant but you need to be prepared.

This is how it happened to me:

A “policeman” who was a passenger on a motorbike suddenly knocked on my car window and ordered me over to the side of the road. Still wearing his helmet and dark glasses, he climbed into the back of the car and ordered I drive on, although I kept telling him I had "no Espanol."

He continued hollering “red light, red light,” but there were no red lights where I'd been driving. My new back seat driver finally told me to pull over and he continued to harangue me while I protested my ignorance of the language and everything in general.

My companion, who'd received only As in 5 semesters of college Spanish and who was an obvious product of grade inflation, handed him our Spanish-English dictionary but he dismissed it.

He showed me his National Police ID (careful not to reveal his name or photo) and pointed to his gun and asked for $100. So I gave him RD$100, a little over $US6.

I'd heard the cops usually ask for RD$20. He wrote down $US100 on a piece of paper. Of course there was only one response: I laughed and said “No!” I was ready to go to the police station.

When my companion and I both started laughing at his request, he muttered, got out of the car and walked away shaking his head. He didn't have the RD$100 and his bike ride wasn't waiting.

Too bad for him.

Demanding money from motorists is a common police practice and seems to happen most often on Friday and Saturday because (I was told) the cops pay off their superiors on the weekend.

If you refuse to pay, as I did when the demand is exorbitant, hopefully the greedy scumbag will just walk away.

But you may have to pay. I know a national magazine editor who did.

What is really disturbing: This official corruption casts a terrible shadow over the island and its people, who generally are very honest.

These low-life cops are not an accurate reflection of the country, though they could be your most lasting impression. They reinforce the impression that the DR is nothing but a banana republic.

And that's unfair.

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