Many years ago, I was hanging out with a police officer friend of mine at a bar. One of her police friends said he was about to drive home, and I asked if he was good to drive. He chuckled a bit and said, “Of course, what are they going to do, arrest me?” He then left the bar, far more intoxicated than I would prefer to be behind the wheel, and presumably drove home.
He was right, of course: assuming he didn’t get into an accident thus forcing a report to be made, while you may be shocked by his attitude, you probably know that police officers will not cite or arrest each other for pretty much anything that doesn’t have a complaining civilian witness, and sometimes not even then. This “professional courtesy” is also often extended to their families by providing the family member business cards with little notes on them. Having such a card is not a license to kill, but it is probably going to get you out of a minor speeding ticket.
It takes special audacity, however, to be the largest police union in the country and to take this to the next level by printing up plastic credit-card like “get out of jail free” cards, and giving each officer 32 of these cards every year. It takes even more audacity to complain to the media when the union reduces that number down to 20:
“They are treating active members like shit, and retired members even worse than shit,” 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 few points.
First, it’s clear that these cards are expected to grant special privileges upon the holder, to wit: that they will receive leniency upon being stopped for committing a crime. Otherwise, they’d make pretty lousy gifts. “Oh, thanks, Dad, a 2018 edition of a worthless card from your former employer!” Of course not.
Second, this is corruption. It’s not major, “let’s get a law passed in exchange for cash” corruption. But all are entitled to be treated equally under the law, and if some are treated “more equally than others,” we end up with nonsense like NYC’s gun licensing scheme, where for a full century, anyone from literal mobsters to random rich people are entitled to their Second Amendment rights where the people as a whole are not.
Third, the reason cops want 32 of these cards is not because they have 32 family members to give them to, but because they are literally selling them on eBay. For a $50 donation to your local corrupt cop, you too can have a get-out-of-jail-free card. For a bit more, you can get one signed by an actual cop.
It’s a problem that it’s long time we address, and the first step in fixing that problem is treating this like the corruption that it is. NYPD rank-and-file cops simply see this as a perk of the job — as “professional courtesy.” But there’s nothing courteous about it to the general public, who is deprived of the public safety benefit they are paying for when people think they no longer have to follow the law. Police officers and their family should be setting the example when it comes to lawfulness — not seeking to be above the law.