Short rant about those little cards available to family members of police officers

The ones that say something along the lines of, “Supporter of the New York Patrolmen’s Fund, 2000-2001.” Last night a nurse (whose son is a NYC PO) was exhibiting her card. She described that NYC PO’s can get up to 5 cards which they distribute to family and close friends. They pay for each card and it is valid for only one year. And what do the cards do? According to this nurse, if displayed in a car’s dash, they prevent parking tickets and towing. If presented upon being stopped for a moving violation, they persuade the officer to issue only a warning. She didn’t detail any other of the card’s uses but one wonders.

This is not the first time I’ve seen such items. Lot’s of cars display decals documenting the occupant’s record of contributions to the local patrolmen’s benevolent association. Legend has it that such displays reduce the likelihood of ticketing as well.

Is it true that police departments grant favorable treatment to their sponsors? I have no evidence beyond a number of individuals’ say so’s. But if true, this is a substantial breach of the principle of equal justice.

Does the favorable treatment stop at the level of parking and moving violations? I know of no instances where a blind eye has been turned on more serious offences. Perhaps, though, displaying these cards and decals affects a police officer’s judgment more generally. Logically, one might expect that as long as an officer’s oversight is unlikely to be noticed, such oversights may be more pervasive, however invisible.

Many professions offer perks to their numbers. Airline employees get cheap flights, retail outlet employees get cheap goods, and doctors and nurses get extra attention when they are hospitalized. However the extension of “professional courtesy” to the friends and relatives of police officers in exchange for a “donation” sounds like graft at best. Even if the courtesy is granted only for minor offences, some organization is making a good deal of money by offering this service.

PS I’m not anti-police, just pro-justice. The above is based on hearsay and limited personal observations. If there exists a consensus that the above is way off base, I’d be pleased and will gladly retract all.

Well poliecemen don’t enforce justice. They enforce laws. If your looking for justice from the legal system you will be looking for a long time. Laws are merely to promote society.

People that have those cards like to think that they work. They probably have very little actual effect.

They are PBA cards. Policeman’s Benevolent Association.

The approved unstated method for using them is to place them in your wallet next to your driver’s license in those plastic card holders. When you get asked for your license, you pull the the plastic thingies out so the officer can see your card. You do not say anything about it, or request special treatment.

The policeman in question will decide on his own what your posession of the card means, and how to act concerning it.

My experience is that it is a very strong persuader in your favor. It means a policeman is either related to you or thinks highly enough of you that he wants other policeman to know it.

In the course of my life the cards I received from my long retired grandfather have gotten me out of at least 3 speeding tickets and one serious incident.

As a 17 year old I was drinking in the park with some friends one night. The police busted us. They checked our IDs, my card was seen, and I was told to take a walk and not come back again. My friends weren’t so lucky and got taken in.

I dunno, I guess I don’t have a problem with it. Probably from the standpoint you mentioned: other jobs have other “familial” perks. I don’t think these cards are going to prevent someone from being arrested or fined for serious crimes. If they help people get a little goodwill when they’ve committeed a minor boo-boo, so be it.

I am also sympathetic because I know being a cop’s wife/kid/parent probably brings with it a lot of worry and stress. If there’s at least one perk for going through that, more power to 'em.

Well I do have a problem with it.

If we cannot trust the police to enforce laws evenly and without prejudice, then we cannot trust the police - period.

My sister openly admits she can “cry on demand” when pulled over, and she has thus got out of speeding tickets that way. I refuse to demean myself to be given special treatment - or to receive special treatment at all.

I know there are far worse offences of uneven enforcement (“Driving While Black”, anyone?). But in my “imaginary perfect world”, a cop who let someone off because of the PBA card would be jailed.

I agree. The pervasive, low level abuse might be a red flag denoting a mentality that applies the law relativistically (Lots of law for you sir, you have no connections. Less law for you ma’am, you’ve got that purty card.). It’s a clear signal that given favorable circumstances and high position, there is much that a police department is willing to forgive.

I searched for information about the uses and abuses of these cards. Came up empty. Have they ever made the news?

If we remove the individual’s ability to apply some amount of judgement to a situation we end up with Zero Tolerance policies.

While having a card as a goodwill sticker is kind of …dopey… is it all that much different that having a 4.0 GPA, being in NHS, volunteering at the Human Society, or being senior class president? Its a mark that you have done something good and that maybe, just maybe, this little mistakes is just a little mistake. Not above the law, but perhaps due a bit of balance.

Or we can throw kids headed to Juliard out of school for drawing a gun. Its against the rules, you go down.

The card system is a bit more flashy that I would like good deeds to be. But as far as we know all it might do is give a generous person a warning ratehr than a tciket. Such is also said for cute girls, first offenders, and who ever else a cop decides to forgive on whatever reason they choose to. No one has said its a get out of manslaughter free card, just that it might influence a cop’s decision about very minor things.

So what? If you don’t speed or park illegally you won’t even ever have the opportunity to use one. (That is the path of action I’m going to work on, personally.)

Zero tolerance sucks, in general. But some things need zero tolerance. Can you argue for a reason to let someone off for drunk driving if their blood alcohol is over the legal limit? Can you let a husband off for giving his wife a “love tap”, because he might not have meant it? I’m not saying remove a cop’s judgement at all, just make it fair and impartial.

The problem here with your argument, however, is there is no sort of merit or accomplishment required to get one of these cards. The cop that sees this card in your wallet has no idea how you came by it. You could be a true Saint. You can be some cop’s fishing or drinking buddy, his criminal brother-in-law, or his ne’er do well kid. For that matter, you could have stolen it from someone you just killed, or printed it from a bitmap on the Net. You see my problem here? The hypothetical cop is making a judgement in part based on a little card of unknown origin - and it’s the worst type of judgement they can make.

Jesus…I had to think about this one a second. I took the first definition of “drawing” to mean drawing as in “drawing from a holster”, not “drawing on paper.” :smiley:

Well, I for one really want my law enforcement officials to apply even justice, and not base it on a card of unknown origin, my sex, my appearance, and my skin color.

And I am deeply, deeply offended and angered by the thought of “cute girls” getting a warning, while the “ugly girls” don’t. Doesn’t this bother anyone else?

In a word, Anthracite, yes. I don’t like the idea that the laws police officers are sworn to uphold are dependent on the officer’s mood at the time or some equally non-pertinent defining condition like someone having a card in their wallet or looking good in a sweater. I don’t like the idea of law-enforcement officers playing favourites.

I s’pose I’d be more crabby about this if I thought those cards were a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I figger they are used (and most useful) for minor traffic violations and parking infractions. I know I’m not a perfect driver, and I get away with plenty of those all the time just because I don’t get caught or the police let it go. Isn’t that true for everyone? If I get caught, I get caught, and hopefully it reminds me to be a little more careful or considerate. Maybe I’ll get off with a warning, and maybe I won’t. But if someone else gets pulled over in their one-in-a-hundred speeding infractions going 45 in a 35, I can’t get too peeved if they got off with a warning because they’re in med school or drive a nice car or have big hooters or a little card in their wallet that indicates they gots friends in the station house.

I guess to sum this up better, I acknowledge that I get away with minor stuff all the time. I benefit from uneven/lax enforcement every week. Thus, I don’t hold a grudge over those who have a marginal edge that lets them get a “by” on those rare times they run smack dab into enforcement. I do find it repulsive when people lie to a police officer to up their chances of a getting off with only a warning, but that’s from a morality/integrity issue more than a fairness stance.

All this, of course, presumes we’re talking about incomplete stops, failing to signal a lane change, and your meter running over. If we’re talking about people using these cards to get a wink and a warning for a DUI or nun-beating, I’d be offended.

As for the general topic of people getting warnings (police card aside)…frankly, I suspect there’s a lot of “community goodwill” that goes into letting people off with the slap on the wrist. There’s a lot of revenue to be gained in writing a stiff fine for every single traffic stop–surely the only reason they forgo that is that the citizenry would grumble a lot if enforcement was too strict. I don’t think 100% ticketing rates on traffic stops would be good for police departments, even if it would make it more fair for those of us who can’t cry on cue.

Una, while I also find it offensive that cute, young girls don’t get tickets while “ugly” girls do, it seems to be quite common. I used to be a cute, little, blond girl and never got a ticket until I was over 40 and over weight. I had several friends get tickets for the same things I got pulled over for. Coincidence? Maybe.
Years ago I dated a deputy and had his business card that I placed on my dash. I never got tickets, even at the Junior College, where parking passes were required. I never got pulled over during that time, but my friend used her cop husbands business card numerous times to get out of tickets.

I had a truck that had one of those stickers on the windshield, from a previous owner. One time I noticed the cop that pulled me over looked at it pretty carefully before arresting me for a warrant (failure to attend defensive driving course). I guess it had the wrong years on it or something.

I seem to recall we had a thread a while back where somebody asked about those stickers, an if the cops cut any slack.

IIRC Bluepony, and other cops (or such as they purported to be) on the board said they didn’t mean shit.

I don’t have a spiffy little card, but I do have the boobage working in my favor…I’ve been pulled over 8 or 9 times, and made out with only 2 tickets. One was in New York, and I think the guy would’ve given his own mother a ticket…the other was on the way back from meeting Airman Doors in New York, and I swear it was a setup…course, stupid me never paid it, and now I have 3 weeks before my license gets suspended…oops.

Maybe if I show up at the DMV, my boobage will work for me?

Pammi, I am tempted to go for a sig on that last line…

I’d like to weigh in with Anthracite and choosybeggar on this one. If the cards work as suggested, they create an us/them division, they are distinctively elitist. That’s bad. ‘Lots of law for you sir, you have no connections. Less law for you ma’am, you’ve got that purty card.’ Yeah.

If you want it, the line’s yours :slight_smile:

I have 3 objections to the use of PBA cards. In order of least bothersome to most:

  1. Inequity of law enforcentment for small infractions

Probably the cards are used mostly to avoid parking and speeding tickets. Insofar as a PO’s decision to ticket or not is influenced solely by membership in the special club, the practice is unfair. However, we’re not talking about a grave injustice here.

  1. The possibility that the existence of “card culture” implies a broader inequity

When a PO sees a card, the mentality might be, “This is someone important to another PO. Letting them off is unlikely to result in a review of my actions. Therefore, Scylla, take a walk.”

Then invisibility of these acts of sidewalk amnesty makes me wonder how far the priviledges of the card could extend.

  1. A “benevolent” organization is making buttloads of cash by selling illegal influence

The PO’s must buy cards, they aren’t handed out for free. Do these “donations” comprise a large portion of PBA funds? What would happen to the donations if cards weren’t issued?

Here’s a link to a GD thread from this year about the cards. The discussants concluded that the cards do indeed convey influence.

If you can find the thread you describe, I’d be interested to read it. Also, if BearNenno or Bluepony are around, please give us your input.