Courtesy Cards: Because Who Needs Rules When You Know a Cop?

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Depending on where you live in the country, you may have seen this bizarre phenomenon among members of law enforcement. But now, a police officer is finally speaking out against an unofficial practice that reinforces the idea that “some animals are more equal than others.”

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In a federal lawsuit, police officer Mathew Bianchi has reportedly criticized the use of “courtesy cards” that allow friends and relatives of police officers to avoid traffic tickets:

A New York City police officer is speaking out against the use of “courtesy cards” by friends and relatives of his colleagues on the force, accusing department leaders of maintaining a sprawling system of impunity that lets people with a connection to law enforcement avoid traffic tickets.

Though not officially recognized by the NYPD, the laminated cards have long been treated as a perk of the job. The city’s police unions issue them to members, who circulate them among those who want to signal their NYPD connections — often to get out of minor infraction like speeding or failing to wear a seat belt.

“I see card after card. You’re not allowed to write any of them (up),” Bianchi said during an interview. “We’re not supposed to be showing favoritism when we do car stops, and we shouldn’t be giving them out because the guy mows my lawn.”

The officer described a system of selective enforcement, where officers who don’t adhere to this unwritten policy face serious consequences. He stated that current and retired officers have access to hundreds of cards, often exchanging them for discounts on meals or home improvement services. Bianchi’s lawsuit highlights the prevalence of these cards and the favoritism they promote, leading to unequal treatment during traffic stops.

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The lawsuit highlights instances where Bianchi was reprimanded for issuing tickets to relatives or parents of officers. He claimed that his commanding officer would personally review body camera footage to ensure he wasn’t giving those with cards a hard time.

However, Bianchi’s breaking point came when he ticketed a friend of the highest-ranking NYPD uniformed officer, Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, after which he was removed from the traffic unit and reassigned to a night patrol shift. The widespread use of these cards, coupled with their availability for purchase online, raises obvious concerns about corruption and unequal treatment. Bianchi emphasized that individuals without connections to law enforcement are less likely to receive warnings during traffic stops, particularly minority motorists who have limited access to these courtesy cards.

When I was still living in California (yes, I am a native Californian, don’t hold it against me), I remember there being a similar practice among police officers and firefighters. Some had cards. Others had stickers they would place on one of their windows. The same principle applied. If you were lucky to have a friend or family member who happened to be a law enforcement official, then you could easily get out of being dinged for minor traffic offenses.

Must be nice, right?

Even then, I thought the whole thing reeked of elitism and favoritism. This practice perpetuates a culture of impunity among the citizenry, erodes public trust in the police, and further highlights the need for a fair and unbiased approach to law enforcement.

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By allowing certain individuals to evade punishment for their actions because they have a magic card, the system sends a troubling message that the rules do not apply equally to everyone. This favoritism undermines the very foundation of justice and fairness that law enforcement is supposed to uphold.

My solution?

Give everyone courtesy cards! This way, fewer citizens will be forced to fork over their hard-earned cash to the government because they did not feel like wearing a seatbelt or failed to comply with another equally asinine traffic law. Times are hard, and nobody wants to be extorted over silly and useless measures that are only designed to fill the coffers of the local government, right?

In fact, this might even be a boon for police officers, who can spend more of their time actually protecting our rights from evil people instead of hassling regular folks. I say it’s a win-win for everyone involved, which is precisely why it will never happen. But it’s still fun to dream, is it not?

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