Parking Placards, “Get Out of Jail Free” Cards, and NYPD’s Culture of Lawlessness

"Get out of jail free" cards from the PBA and other local police unions. Via Google image search
"Get out of jail free" cards from the PBA and other local police unions. Via Google image search

In NYC you don’t have to look hard to find motorist entitlement that rises to the level of corruption. Parking placard abusers steal street space all around us, all the time.

It’s so pervasive that when the Post reported that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association distributes cards that are used by friends and relatives of cops “to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets” — to break the law with impunity, in other words — the lede wasn’t that such cards exist.

No, the news is that cops aren’t getting as many “get out of jail free” cards as they are accustomed to, and they are pissed.

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 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.”

A source said Lynch ordered the cutback to stop the sale of the cards, which were being hawked on eBay last week for as much as $200.

For a lot of people, this is the first they’re hearing about this type of NYPD “courtesy” (a.k.a. criminal corruption). Check out Twitter for reactions outside the NYPD/access journalism bubble.

With tens of thousands of active and retired PBA members distributing these cards, there are probably in the range of a million people in the NYC region who can flash them and expect to get off scot-free for a traffic violation.

The PBA cards are of a piece with the culture of parking placards. They are both instruments that make a certain class of connected New Yorkers immune to laws against speeding, illegal parking, and other traffic offenses.

The cards have worth only because NYPD employees generally consider “their own” to be above the laws that everyone else must follow. It’s the same tribe mentality that makes a parking placard “the holiest of government oils.”

Seven years ago an NYPD ticket-fixing scandal led to indictments of over a dozen officers, many of them PBA officials. Handing out PBA cards may be different in practice than voiding tickets, but you can see how officers accustomed to distributing preemptive “get out of jail free” perks could easily move on to nixing tickets after the fact. The underlying sense of lawlessness and contempt for the public at large is the same.

Broken windows for thee, but not for me — or my drinking buddy.