Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There is a culture of corruption in too many police departments. Case in point: New York police (and who knows who else) hands out ‘get out of jail free’ cards to their officers. Pulled over for a speeding ticket? Wave one of these and the policeman is likely to just wave you on.

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.

“They are treating active members like s–t, and retired members even worse than s–t,” griped an NYPD cop who retired on disability. “All the cops I spoke to were . . . very disappointed they couldn’t hand them out as Christmas gifts.”

“Cracking down” means reducing the number by a third, not getting rid of this unethical practice altogether. And clearly the cops are treating these as a privilege to be taken for granted — they deserve these special exemptions. I guess there’s one law for the friends and family of the police, and a different, harsher law for the rest of us.


  1. Zeppelin says

    Wait, so US police hand out literal, physical free misdemeanour vouchers to friends and family? How can that possibly be even remotely legal?

  2. says

    That’s what “challenge coins” are also for. Leave your DHS challenge coin in your tray going through airport security and you’re likely to breeze through pretty fast.

  3. cartomancer says

    Perhaps the NYPD ought to give a big stack of these to all the black people in the city that they habitually harass and pester? Might make for an interesting attempt at balancing the scales…

  4. vucodlak says

    @ Zeppelin, #2

    The purpose of the police force in the US is to protect and serve the powerful. If protecting and serving the general public would get in the way of that, then the police are expected to screw over the public in favor of the powers that be. That can be a bitter pill for some idealistic young souls to swallow, so sweet little perks like these cards can make the medicine go down easier. For others, it helps to ensure loyalty by making them feel like part of a special, elect few.

  5. says

    There are 40,000 rank-and-file patrol officers in NYC. If each of them gets 10 or so passes, let’s call that a cool half-million crimes being waved on.

    This is only the tip of a gigantic, ugly, shit-berg. Because district attorneys also have a great deal of discretion over whether they decide to try a case, or how to charge a suspect. They can take a look at who the suspect’s attorney is, or perhaps who their friends are (which is going to depend on who has whose cell phone number and can call and put in a word edgewise)

    And guess what? Both of those systems clearly preference white, wealthy, and well-connected. And that’s something you should throw in anyone’s face who says “black people commit more crimes.” No, black people are arrested, written up, charged, and prosecuted for more crimes.

    Let me dig under another layer of shit, to turn over some … fresh shit. Someone who is arrested, who has money, resources, connections – they can make bail, get out, work with their lawyer, attend extended court hearings, delay and hope the arresting officer or witnesses can’t make a court date, etc. A poor person doesn’t have that opportunity: they’re behind bars – in punitive conditions, being treated as guilty before proven innocent – they’re going to either lose their job, be off work, and basically helpless sitting in a cell, or they’re going to plea bargain. There is a huge amount of predatory plea-bargaining going on and the entire justice system is utterly corrupt with it. Again, the system of plea-bargaining favors the rich and connected. Since it favors the rich and connected, nobody bothers pushing on the fact that it is obviously unconstitutional.

    And don’t even get started on trading sex for a pass. When officers in NYC were caught flat-out sexually assaulting a 17-year-old on the basis that someone else in the car she was in had drugs the police union’s first line of defense was “hey, cops have to sometimes interrogate suspects” I kid you not. They later backed away from it, but, basically, it’s there: occasionally, a cop’s gotta do that kinda thing. They said the same thing about whether a cop can get a blowjob from a sex worker before handcuffing them, or not. Because, something something investigation something.

    The US justice system is shit all the way down, from Sessions to officer Porky Porkface who wants to be able to tear up parking tickets for a friend. The whole system needs to be burned to the ground and plowed with salt.

  6. jimzy says

    How difficult would they be to duplicate? Anyone want to print a few million? Or, do they have “valid for white people only” embossed on the card?

  7. zetopan says

    Since the police are *supposed* to be the law enforcement, those “get out of jail” cards should actually double the fines that the holders have to pay.

  8. smrnda says

    The existence of these cards just demonstrates that cops have no intention of enforcing laws in anything but a capricious and arbitrary fashion – their family and friends will get a break while they gun down unarmed POC in the streets for the same offenses. A cop should be ashamed of willing to participate in this racket – the fact that the cops have some sort of private agreement to not bust their ‘friends and family’ proves that we can’t trust them.

    and treating them like shit? Sorry, you all make way more $ than you are worth with better benefits than most people. What other job can you fuck up and kill someone and still be not just out of jail but employed?

  9. says

    Aw, come on, it’s just like how bankers have free access to all the bank’s money, and the pilots of aircraft that bomb places get to bomb wherever they want!
    “Merry Christmas, Timmy! What place would you like to be bombed?” “My school!”

  10. Dunc says

    Does the phrase “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” mean anything over there?

  11. says

    So, they’ve made an official system, dictating the exact parameters of their contempt for the law. Wow. It’s even worse than I thought.

  12. Jeremy Shaffer says

    This is a lure they sometimes use to get people to donate to the Fraternal Order of Police. At least, it’s been used as such a few times when they’ve called me looking for a donation. “Just $15 dollars, and who know what that FOP sticker on your car’s window might help out with,” they said. I seriously doubt it’d do fuck all, but they weren’t above suggesting it could work that way.

  13. says

    @16, LykeX

    So, they’ve made an official system, dictating the exact parameters of their contempt for the law. Wow. It’s even worse than I thought.

    Well it’s not that exact or official. Probably because that would be too easy to fix. There’s just these mysterious “PBA cards” that the unions hand out with (as far as I can tell) no plausible official purpose. But, wink wink, we all know what to do when we see one. That’s what it looks like to me.


    That is, most sources seem to be saying they only (sometimes, not always) help people with fairly minor things, most often traffic tickets. Not other things they would go to jail for. And it’s not a guarantee, because, well, it’s not official now is it?

    But still…

    Really, not much different from what you already knew before you heard about these cards: police aren’t exactly monitored to ensure they always follow the letter of the law, and so sometimes they use their discretion or show favoritism. For example, see a more general thing here, extending beyond cards:


    It’s fucked up.

  14. jrkrideau says

    Well, now we know why Trump was so sure he could gun down someone on 5th Ave with impunity. He had a gold “get out of jail” card.

    @15 Dunc
    Does the phrase “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” mean anything over there?

    To the south of me its seems to mean “Party Time”.

    Most any police officer is likely to cut another officer a bit of slack, humans are pack animals. But I’m thinking along the lines of driving 20km over the speed limit or littering, not trying to beat the land speed record or shooting someone.

    Institutionalizing it to the extent of setting levels and printing cards is incredible.

  15. says

    Echoing Jeremy Shaffer #18, I operate a small store in central N.J., and between the boro, township, county and state police, I get four different PBAs hitting us up for donations. Some hand out cards, some give car decals, but they all hint very hard without ever actually stating that having the card/decal will result in preferential treatment. It really is flabbergasting when they do it. I want to scream at them, “Aren’t you professionals?”

  16. David Marjanović says

    WHAT the



    …Ah. What is a “Benevolent Association”? If it’s a union, why does it beg for money – can’t the police afford the membership fees or something?

  17. AlanMac says

    In Toronto , Canada. Family members place a police baseball cap with the police logo on it in the back window of their car. Works the same .

  18. robro says

    While I understand that in many parts of the country law enforcement is still white male, in the cities…like SF…there’s a lot of diversity in the force. I’m willing to bet that non-white and non-male officers are happily participating as many of the perks or privileges as they can.

    I don’t know if SF has this sort of thing, but I do frequent a Starbucks where around 9:00 PM the place fills up with officers coming on duty for the night. I’ve seen conversations between employees and officers where the employee disappears for a few minutes and returns with what appears to be a citation of some form. The officer writes on it and thank you’s and no problems all around.

    I have always assume that most of these freebies are for equipment violations. If you get cited for something like a taillight out, when you get it fixed you have to go into a police station (hassle & weird place) and pay a fee ($35 as I recall). I have heard that you can have an officer sign the citation for you so you can just mail it in and not pay the fee.

  19. EigenSprocketUK says

    The BBC report on this has several people’s accounts of how useful these usually are, in lots of situations. I was surprised that gold windshield badges could go for $3-5k. Even a usually fair-minded and scrupulous officer would think more than twice about how much harassment they could expect from colleagues and superiors if they were to issue such a well-connected union supporter with a ticket.
    Fuck this corruption. Double the penalties for anyone trying to pull that sort of protection racket.

  20. damien75 says

    I have read the comment. If I understand it right… Nothing is going to happen ?
    This incredible and scandalous situation is going to remain as it is ?
    Nobody is going to be punish ? Things are going to keep being that way ?
    It should be a national outrage.
    I don’t understand anything to the U.S.