PBA and FOP cards.....

So late one night last month (jan) I’m coming up on a traffic light, and I see it turn red. It’s late, my car is still cold, and I have no desire to sit at the light for 3 minutes.

I’m in the town that I was raised in, I currently work in, and own an office in.

I know this town and it’s streets very well. The town is in NJ, and I would guess has a population of about 15,000 and an area of 2X2 miles. If you live in a rural part of the country, you have to understand that in most of NJ the towns are literally side by side for miles and miles. So the small town thing does not always hold around here.


I know that there is a bank parking lot right there that I can cut through and avoid the light. (no turn on red) So I take it. As I’m nearing the exit of the parking lot, I look into my rear view mirror and I see a cop. He was hiding on the other side of the street in another parking lot, just waiting for this. There is no way out.

So he pulls me over. As luck would have it, I registered my car online earlier in the day and left my insurance ID card by the computer.

So he pulls me over and I pull out my wallet to give him my Drivers license/registration. I know a bunch of cops through martial arts and random other things just from living in the same state my whole life, so I had 3 PBA cards in there (PBA is basically the same thing as FOP). They are all from 2000, so the cop tells me those are all expired. I respond by telling him it is the beginning of the year, and I had forgotten to ask for new ones.

Then I hand him my papers and say:

Officer, there just three things I want to let you know.

[1] I know I screwed up. I’m not going to try and give you a whole list of excuses.

[2] I registered my car online today and forgot to bring my insurance ID card back into the car with me.


[3] (yes I really said this) I know alot of you guys. I own so and so company, and we helped out officer blank back when …I know officer…and officer…

…could you give me a non-moving violations ticket?
So we have this conversation about who I know and how I know them. (none of them well) He is quizzing me on last names, how long I’ve lived in the town etc… Then, without doing the standard “go back to the cop car and check out my record thing,” he just tells me to drive safe and give a big donation to the PBA this year.
So even though I walked away scott-free, I see a problem with this. I am the average Joe. Why should a couple of cards thrown at me by a couple of cops for non-police related favors get me special treatment? For that matter, why should family members and other relatives get special treatment?

I’m pretty much a realist, so I don’t expect a perfect world where everybody is treated by perfectly fair minded cops, but isn’t the existence of these cards just a slap in the face of equality?

Can anyone give me one good reason these cards should be allowed to exist in the first place? What is the justification for them?

Actually, to prohibit them, you’d have to come up with a reason why they shouldn’t exist.You can’t really make it illegal for an organization to give cards or bumper stickers to their donors or “associate members”. There’s no rule saying that a holder shouldn’t be given a ticket,and police officers generally have a great deal of discretion about whether or not to issue a ticket-unlike a crime, they are not required to write a ticket for every traffic infraction they see.There’s been more than one time when I could have been given a ticket, but wasn’t (didn’t have my registration or insurance card with me),and it wasn’t because of a PBA card. You could prohibit the police from paying any attention to them, but how would you be able to know that’s why they didn’t write the ticket? Suppose that cop had done the standard check out your record thing and then didn’t give you the ticket? Would you ever really know if it was because of your card or your record?

The reason they shouldn’t exist is because they are a de facto card of priviledge.
Anybody who knows my views around here knows that I am the last one that wants to prohibit things just because it has the potential to be misused. However, we are talking about the police here.

This is not an issue of individual freedoms or restricting private clubs. This is an issue of an obvious method of favortism used by the police.

NJ has a huge issue with racial profiling. I KNOW we are not the only state with this problem. We just happen to be the one in the news right now. If we need to be doing anything, it is making sure that all of us have as equal access to the police as everyone else.

I understand that in many cases the cards are used to get special treatment (and I don’t agree with it), but still, there has to be a rationale to make them illegal, other than “they can be used to gain special priviliges”. After all, there reportedly used to be a code among meter maids in NY that involved M&M’s left on the dashboard.That wouldn’t be sufficient reason to make M&M’s illegal. Come to think of it,even if the PBA etc couldn’t distribute these cards, whats to prevent something else (mini-shields,business cards with a coded message written on them,whatever)from being used to the same end. The only way to avoid allowing police officers to not write tickets because the driver has a connection to the police would be to require them to write tickets in all circumstances where they legally can ,and I’m not sure I want to go that far.

Three questions:

  1. What in Heck’s name are PBA and FOP,
  2. What do their cards signify, and
  3. Why is driving through a parking lot illegal?

[1] FOP Fraternal Order of Police, PBA Policeman’s Beneficiary Assoc.

Basically two groups that represent the police. They might be the names of their unions, but I’m not sure.

[2] The cards signify jack shit. They could mean that you donated a bunch of money to the PBA/FOP, or that you are a family member or friend of a cop.

Basically cops get a certain amount of the cards every December to pass out to their friends/supporters. Some of the cops who are in fundraising positions get a ton of cards.

[3] In NJ it is illegal to go through private property that you do not own for the purpose of avoiding a traffic light. Whether you agree with the law or not, for some reason I did know full well that it was illegal.

The way the cards work is that you give them to a cop when you get pulled over. I keep mine between my drivers license and my registration. Then when he asks for your information…ooops…look at those cards officer. Next you throw out your story and try to talk your way out of the ticket.

The tickets have the cop’s name, town and badge # on them. I have heard that sometimes the cop will take your card and call the issueing cop to let him know. I have had to use my cards 5 (6?:)) times. I have never had one taken. The cards don’t really mean anything, but usually you can get away without a ticket if you weren’t doing anything to bad.

I would guess that if you were drunk off your ass or abusive to the cop, the cards should stay hidden.

FTR…I got pulled over in Maryland going 89 in a 65. The guy returned my cards without a word, and had my ticket written out in under a minute. I was in awe. Total time on the shoulder was probably under 2 minutes. Those guys are machines.

Long semi-related anecdote before I get to my point:

About three years ago I had a conversation with a Belarusian friend about the corruption in the police forces in the former Soviet Union. Apparently, driver’s licenses are designed sort of like a passport- a little booklet thingy. Anyway, according to him it was common practice for most people to leave the Russian equivalent of a $20 bill folded up inside. When you got pulled over (usually for nothing) you handed the license to the Ruskie cop, who removed his “gift” and then proceeded on his way.

If you hadn’t really done anything to be legitimately stopped for, you’d be let go as soon as the cop got his money. On the other hand, if you had been speeding, you’d lose the $20 and get a citation. If you had been speeding and there was no payola in your license, you might find yourself in jail.

At the time, I was a little skeptical of this story. However I have recently bounced the story off of two new Russian acquaintances (they live a few doors down the street) and they have more or less verified that they did keep money in their driver’s license for just such an occasion. Neither of them was ever stopped so they couldn’t tell me whether or not it was really effective. They also suggested that it was probably more of a real issue in little townsvilles and not that bad in the big city.


For the past 6-8 years, I have received calls from a member of the MD FOP asking me if I’d like to donate to the children’s Halloween event (or something like that). He explained that they were trying to keep kids off the street and yadda yadda yadda. I didn’t listen too closely because I was almost sure it was a scam. I told him to send me something in the mail & I’d be glad to donate.

To my surprise, I got mail from the MDPD referencing the aforementioned event. I did a little bit of checking- called the HQ, etc. to make sure that the return address was genuine, and then stuck my check for $20 in the envelope & sent it back.

Shortly thereafter, I got a “thank you” in the form of some official-looking stickers that I was supposed to put on my car bumper to indicate that I supported the MDPD’s department of keeping children safe on Halloween. Okay I don’t remember exactly what they said, but the note said I should apply these stickers to my vehicle to proudly show my support and yadda yadda yadda…)

I’ve always felt like these little stickers were supposed to ticket-proof my car. Or at least help some cop “look the other way” if I happened to be seen committing some kind of minor nit-pickitty violation like driving through a parking lot to avoid a traffic light at 3 a.m.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to make such cards/stickers/flags actually illegal, but I don’t think it’s a good idea that raggedy old ordinary citizens such as me should be able to identify ourselves to police as “pet citizens”.