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August 13, 2002
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PBA cards issued by police to friends and relatives are handy in sticky situations (geocities). Anyone lucky enough to have one in their wallet ? Howard Stern has one.
posted by keithl (50 comments total)

 
In my neck of the woods you can get these official bumper stickers to the effect of "I support the police," and I've often wondered about the potential for special treatment.
posted by Songdog at 12:12 PM on August 13, 2002


What exactly is a PBA card? Does it indicate you've donated to the old policemen's fund or something?
posted by saltykmurks at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2002


I'm still waiting for a link to explain to me what the hell is a PBA card.
posted by cowboy at 12:15 PM on August 13, 2002


That's all I'm saying.
posted by saltykmurks at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2002


Flippin' bowlers get away with everything.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2002


more pba info

(yay! i can use google!)
posted by mooseindian at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2002


Thanks for the snark. I was searching myself at the time. I got it now.
posted by cowboy at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2002


Policeman's Benevolent Association
posted by mathowie at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2002


I have a PBA card from 2000, and was always wondering if it would still apply past the year it was issued. I don't know how cops use them. But, see, the idea is that you are a relative or friend of a cop, so you get preferential treatment for minor infractions, much like police usually let other cops off the hook.
posted by rich at 12:23 PM on August 13, 2002


Just goin' for the yuks there Cowboy. So now we all know what one is, how does one get one? All the links I could find seem to assume that the reader is already "in the know" on the power of PBA cards.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:23 PM on August 13, 2002



Policeman's Benevolent Association
Cops apparently get only about 10 per year, and have to pay for them. The card has the officers name and badge number written on the back. So you have to know a cop personally to get one. It's basically a get out of jail free card for minor offences.
posted by andrewzipp at 12:23 PM on August 13, 2002


Ah, so like a mini-Enron donation to a particular political party. Gotcha.
posted by Tacodog at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2002


On the other hand, I always wonder what the hell people are thinking when they put a "Bad cop, no donut" sticker on their car. Why not just beg them for a ticket?
posted by bondcliff at 12:28 PM on August 13, 2002


And here I thought we were all equal under the eyes of the law... ::sob::
posted by ook at 12:30 PM on August 13, 2002


I think 10 is a high number.. I think it may only be 4 or 5 at most.
posted by rich at 12:44 PM on August 13, 2002


My stepfather got a genuine police badge through some half-assed, semi-legitimate deputization (?) process. Those things work wonders, especially in Mexico.
posted by mrhappy at 12:55 PM on August 13, 2002


My dad is a retired NYC cop and gets two each year. They are not meant to be given to other people, but my dad usually gives me one to carry around in my wallet. Active officers as well get 2 per year.
posted by catfood at 12:55 PM on August 13, 2002


Note to the authorities: he recently had to turn it back in.
posted by mrhappy at 12:56 PM on August 13, 2002


man, have things changed, they have much nicer cops these days. i used to be petrified of being pulled over. and they always seemed to stop my humble bent-framed, wobble-wheeled rustbucket with the led zeppelin and fuck nixon bumper stickers when the roach was still smoldering in the ashtray. recently i was stopped 3 times in a few weeks due to a broken taillight lens on my 2001 chevy tracker (i was procrastinating on fixing the blasted thing - the lens alone is $90!) so i couldn't help but notice a few things: the cops are all very young these days - half my age! and the cops all call me "sir" now! imagine that!
posted by quonsar at 1:00 PM on August 13, 2002


Upon actually reading the first article, I am 99% sure it is an utter crock. You don't sign a PBA card, you don't "use" a PBA card unless you're trying to find out about some insurance benefits, and the only reason a family member might be given one is in case a police officer decides to extend a courtesy upon a family member of another officer. I have never been pulled over, and I highly doubt that if I did something truly dangerous or illegal that it would do me very much good.

All the card has is some emergency numbers & insurance numbers on the back. That's all it is.
posted by catfood at 1:05 PM on August 13, 2002


In Chicago we have PBA cards too. They are usually found wrapped inside the $50.00 bill when you hand it to the officer.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:12 PM on August 13, 2002


I've been told that a crisp new $20 handed over with your license and registration will take care of most minor infractions. When the officer asks you what it's for, just explain it's for the PBA, and you don't need a receipt. (winky-winky).

On preview -- $50? Boy, charity costs a lot more in Chicago now than it did when I lived there.
posted by briank at 1:15 PM on August 13, 2002


Heh. That's definately true in Chicago, but I doubt elsewhere in the nation that it would work so well.
posted by SpecialK at 1:18 PM on August 13, 2002


Hey, in Chicago $50 will practically get you a truck driving permit.
posted by sj at 1:20 PM on August 13, 2002


Actually, you do sign a PBA card. Local ones then read:

"My acceptance of this card is my pledge to respect all laws of the United States, the State of New York and the State of New Jersey, and to support law enforcement in every way I can. This card entitles me to no privileges and immunities. This card is the property of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, Inc."

Underneath, it has the name of the authorizing officer.
posted by liam at 1:22 PM on August 13, 2002


that's right, liam.. mine actually states: "The bearer of this Safety Card has pledged to cooperate with the Fraternal Order of Police, New Jersey State Lodge in their safety program. This card is subject to forfeiture for any violation of the laws of this state."

And it does get you off the hook on a couple things, as the cop who gives it to you tells you how you should hand it over when pulled over for anything.

I don't doubt the story, since I have friends with cards that have had similar experiences for speeding, etc.. I just haven't had to use it yet.
posted by rich at 1:29 PM on August 13, 2002


You don't sign the NYC PBA one, I didn't realize that others might differ so significantly. But I still highly doubt the officer would have asked him if he "knew how to use" the PBA card. The article still sounds like an utter crock to me.

Did the cop who gave you his PBA card actually tell you "how to hand it over"? My dad just told me to keep it with my license just in case an officer who pulls me over wants to extend professional courtesy to a family member.

At any rate, maybe people should just not drive like assholes and obey the law and thus eliminate the issue altogether. :P
posted by catfood at 1:37 PM on August 13, 2002


I think selective treatment based upon having a friend or relative in the job is wrong and part of the slippery slope leading down to outright corruption.

I received a Captain's Benevolent Association card from a close relative and placed into my wallet behind my license thinking that it would be a way of showing it without being too blatant. Well two years later I get pulled over for speeding. The officer was definitely preparing to write me a ticket for doing 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. I had forgotten entirely about the card, but when I pulled out my license he saw it and asked, "what is that?" I told him about my relative who was a captain in the NYPD and he just handed back my license and registration and told me to have a nice day. I could not believe my good fortune, but my next thought was - how could he walk away from this crime (albeit so petty) so easily?

If it is OK to let the friends and relatives of cops speed and drive intoxicated, why isn't it OK to steal a little dope from some kids you pull over? If that is OK, maybe taking some tickets to a ball game from mobster to look the other way on the numbers is OK, and so on.

I think corruption starts with the little things. One of the things that the cops, at least in NYC, have done to help reduce crime is be less tolerant about the little things like dealing dope or peeing on the street. I wish they would internalize that a bit.

How's that for going off topic? Sorry.
posted by caddis at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2002


We used to call them "get out of jail free cards". The daughter of the local Judge had one, and it got her out of hot water on at least one occassion.

Sometimes the only difference between us and a 2-bit kleptocracy is the scale of corruption.
posted by condour75 at 3:00 PM on August 13, 2002


When I was 17, I dated a cop (briefly) and he offered me a card. He told me to show it, along with my license, if I ever got pulled over. Sadly, I had to admit I didn't have my driver's license, yet. I sure could have used that card when I bought my RX 7.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:54 PM on August 13, 2002


It's nothing less, or more, than official corruption.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:51 PM on August 13, 2002


This turns my stomach. The federal probation officers where I work are expressly forbidden from showing a badge if they get in trouble. This is to prevent even the appearance of preferential treatment. I can't even show my federal ID (which has the seal of the Court) to an officer.

I'm generally pro-cop, but when you carry the public trust, you must be circumspect even in small matters.
posted by frykitty at 7:03 PM on August 13, 2002


Sometimes the only difference between us and a 2-bit kleptocracy is the scale of corruption

"us" being the country that fostered enron?

back to the subject - i can't believe this thread - i thought s. american police were dodgy, but i don't know of anything similar to this here in chile. and what's with all the wry comments like "professional courtesy" and people saying "oh yeah, i have one, and really i don't use it, but..."? for christ's sakes, people, what do you think corruption is? someone else's problem?

yours, disgusted of santiago.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:13 PM on August 13, 2002


I had one briefly (NY, Suffolk County), a girlfriend had a brother on the force and he gave her one which passed to me.

Following her advice I stuck it in next to my license and promptly forgot about it. When I got stopped a few months later the cop saw it and asked if, "I was on the job," I answered no. He muttered, "Asshole," and wrote me an extra ticket
posted by cedar at 7:30 PM on August 13, 2002


All the card does is indicate that you *know* a police officer. It isn't a force field protecting you from getting a ticket. Plenty of people related to police officers get tickets when they have done something particularly dangerous or illegal. No one is going to avoid getting in trouble for drunk driving or smoking pot because they have a card. If a cop decides to be lenient and let you off with a warning (which many do for no reason other than you looked sorry!) for speeding 5 miles over the limit because he knows your dad was a cop, so be it.

And again, the real problem is people who can't drive for shit. Why not place the blame where it is due? It is not Americans, it is not the police, it is not the relatives of the police. People *die* because of bad drivers. Why isn't anyone else complaining about people who don't signal or those who tailgate or those who change lanes without looking. Maybe it's because you're all terrible drivers and you know it. Why else would you be so upset? :P
posted by catfood at 7:37 PM on August 13, 2002


Why isn't anyone else complaining about people who don't signal or those who tailgate or those who change lanes without looking.

Erm, because it's off topic?

I'm missing your logic. Police corruption is okay because there are bad drivers?
posted by frykitty at 7:43 PM on August 13, 2002


I was kind of joking with all the bad driving ranting (even though that is the problem). This thread just annoys me because half of the stories people are telling sound downright made up and the generalizations made against police officers does offend me on a personal level. We all know there are isolated incidents where people abuse the power they have, but this happens in almost every profession and it is just really fucking wrong to apply it to an entire profession.

I really think it's absurd to call this police corruption. If the geocities story was true, it would be scary, but I highly doubt it is. I have never heard of anyone really getting out of anything because they are related to a police officer, but I suppose it would be possible to get a warning if they knew you were related to one, just like you might get a warning if you are a pretty girl or you looked really upset or you had some good bullshit excuse. It's not exactly fair, but it's a far cry from corruption. Maybe it's unfair that we have to deal with human beings when we do something wrong, and perhaps they should invent automated systems that send everyone tickets automatically whenever they run a red light or go over the speed limit. Well, I know they do that with red lights already, but you know what I mean. Why not remove the human element altogether so that you can never get a break in any extenuating circumstances? A lot of cops who will let something minor slide if you are a relative also let it slide if you are polite & apologetic & aware of your mistake, as long as it wasn't a serious infraction. Is that police corruption?

Implying that cops can be easily bribed with a $20, or that drunken children will be allowed onto the road by flashing a card & dropping a name -- that is offensive to me. Perhaps it is true for some instances with police officers who are personally bad people, but I don't think this is the norm. Even as Cedar points out, trying to get out of trouble with these sneaky ways can get you into even *more* trouble. It's too bad there are no police officers here on MeFi to discuss what they think.
posted by catfood at 8:00 PM on August 13, 2002


A lot of cops who will let something minor slide if you are a relative also let it slide if you are polite & apologetic & aware of your mistake, as long as it wasn't a serious infraction. Is that police corruption?


The first is, the second isn't. The person in the first instance is likely to take advantage of having a police officer for a relative. The second person is likely never to commit the infraction again.

The problem with a PBA card is it appears to be institutionalized to some extent. It is not one cop deciding to be lenient because he knows the message is received, rather it appears to be a system designed to provide leniency to certain people. While I take some stories with a grain of salt, I take others at face value. The question is: if this is true, is it right? My answer is: No.
posted by frykitty at 8:12 PM on August 13, 2002


It isn't a system designed to provide anything other than insurance benefits to police officers. The fact that people give their cards to family members is just a way of letting them show that they are related to a police officer. What the officer does with that knowledge is as much a matter of choice as is deciding whether a person feels bad enough to get away with a warning. Maybe it isn't fair, but it's not as if it is an institutionalized given, and it's not any less fair for someone to get a warning for being a relative of an officer than it is for them for having big tits. People's personal decisions aren't always the most fair, and sometimes people get away with things they shouldn't. However, by eliminating the ability for officers to make decisions somewhat based on their feelings, you eliminate their ability to provide leniency in any case.

I am assuming that most officers let people off the hook perhaps because they envision their own family members in the same situation, but I am sure that this consideration does not only happen with people carrying cards. The point that seems to be missed is that this is a personal, case-by-case basis that might sometimes have to do with a card, but not always. You can even get into more trouble by trying to cop out of dealing with what you did wrong.

Furthermore, no one here other than myself has admitted to being a relative of a cop. None of the stories posted have been about being actually related to a cop. I admit that I have never been even pulled over, and that I do not even think that my card would do anything if I was. I am just as scared of being pulled over as anyone else, and I think most of these other stores are completely fanaticized into near-fiction if not total fiction.

At any rate, this is totally blown out of proportion. Big surprise, what with this being Metafilter and all. I understand that it seems like an unfair situation and all, but it's also unfair to assume that (1) Cops are going to let anyone with a PBA card slide, and (2) People who are given a PBA card are going to take advantage of it. Those generalizations are just downright offensive.
posted by catfood at 9:10 PM on August 13, 2002


It isn't a system designed to provide anything other than insurance benefits to police officers.

That's not how it appears, though I will grant it looks like an informal system. Those can be just as ingrained as formal ones.

However, by eliminating the ability for officers to make decisions somewhat based on their feelings, you eliminate their ability to provide leniency in any case.

That's slippery-slope nonsense. No one is asking an officer not to use his judgement, based on the apparent intent of the offender or extenuating circumstances. I would ask an officer not to be lenient based solely on one's relationship to another officer.

I think most of these other stores are completely fanaticized into near-fiction if not total fiction.

It bothers me a great deal that one of your primary arguments is "everyone else is lying." I make no such assumption, nor do I have grounds to.

but it's also unfair to assume that (1) [all] Cops are going to let anyone with a PBA card slide, and (2) [all] People who are given a PBA card are going to take advantage of it.

On this we agree, and I wouldn't make that assumption. I believe, however, that it shouldn't be done at all.
posted by frykitty at 9:23 PM on August 13, 2002


That's not how it appears, though I will grant it looks like an informal system. Those can be just as ingrained as formal ones.

I explained exactly what kind of "informal system" it is -- it simply identifies you as a relative.

It bothers me a great deal that one of your primary arguments is "everyone else is lying." I make no such assumption, nor do I have grounds to.

I did not say that everyone else is lying, but there are not very many first-hand accounts, are there? I also wonder how so many people acquired so many cards so easily.

On this we agree, and I wouldn't make that assumption.

Ahem: "The person in the first instance is likely to take advantage of having a police officer for a relative. "


I believe, however, that it shouldn't be done at all.

Without the cards, people would probably still be able to identify themselves as relatives of police officers. Maybe it isn't fair for them to get special treatment, but people are going to treat their peer's kids the way they want their own kids to be treated by their peers. That is the insidious informal system you are so hell-bent against, and if that is what the world has come to, then may God save us all.
posted by catfood at 9:36 PM on August 13, 2002


catfood, If you don't think your card will do you any good, why carry it in your wallet?

For what its worth, my brother was pulled over for an expired inspection sticker. He gave the cop a card given to him by a friend ( a local cop whose house my brother put a roof on) The cop took his card and kept my brother on the side of the road for twenty minutes while he called the station where the cop was assigned. He spoke with the cop whose name was on the card. Once verified the cop kept the card ( I understand that they mail them back to the officer who gave it in the first place) my brother was on his way. Without the card he would have had a ticket.

Since PBA cards are not a sanctioned practice there isn’t much information about the privileges that go with them. Here is one persons advice.
posted by keithl at 9:38 PM on August 13, 2002


Ahem: "The person in the first instance is likely to take advantage of having a police officer for a relative. "

This is why I inserted an [all] into your statement. I do think that many people will take advantage, but I would not assume that all would. As I've said, I'm pro-cop. Instances like this committed by the few paint the entire force with a corrupt brush.

You still haven't convinced me that this isn't a betrayal of the public trust. As I believe I made clear, I work for the Courts, and ethical standards are quite high. This behavior would fly in the face of our guidelines for conduct. Frankly, if I were an officer and a child of mine was pulled over for speeding by another officer, they'd better damned well give my kid a ticket.

I believe it comes down to a difference of ethics, and we're going to have to agree to disagree.

posted by frykitty at 9:43 PM on August 13, 2002


that geocities article sounds like it was written by a braggart frat boy who needs to embellish all his stories to maintain some semblance of a personality within his shallow little peer group. you hear a lot of questionable police related stories from certain types of people, which is not to say that some cops don't things they shouldn't. but... i smell the faint odour of hyperbole. here and there.

and i gotta tell you, based on what i see on your nightly news alone - no wait, based on what i see around this weblog alone - if i had to police americans i'd burn out within weeks if not days, so i have to have a fair bit of respect for them, overall :-D

hmmm. you know, around this joint people are always so careful not to make generalizations about anything else, from religion to race to geeks or whatever, but it's ok to bitch about police officers and how awful they are... nevermind that they'll take a bullet or jump off a fire escape to save your life or your cd player.
posted by t r a c y at 9:44 PM on August 13, 2002


keith: I carry it because my dad gave it to me and told me to. Who am I to argue with the law? (that was a joke)

frykitty: Alright, I can dig it. We shall never see eye to eye on this one. Maybe the entire practice is stupid, but people get ridiculous treatment from relatives in all industries, and it's all unfair and stupid. And I know, not all the people getting their relatives benefits are government employees hired to serve & protect, but I tend to think that the serving & protecting goes along pretty much unhindered by the entire PBA situation.

At any rate, this has worn me out. Next time I might try sticking with stupid one-liner MeFi responses.
posted by catfood at 9:54 PM on August 13, 2002


My only personal PBA story is the Sout' Side girl who was going out with a cop 15 years older than her. She put a PBA sticker (which you can get for a donation) on her red sports car, and parked it half in front of a driveway one day. Well, you should have heard her scream about how the PBA sticker was shit and the cop was an asshole and it wasn't her fault that her neighbors took the parking spaces and she had no place else to park and yadda yadda yadda. This went on for a week.

There was also a minor flap in Chicago a couple of years back about cops leaving their police notebooks (a special type of narrow spiral binder) on dashboards, which was a signal to the parking enforcement bureau that they were a cop and not due a ticket. This was apparently an especially big problem at the police headquarters, just outside the Loop, which has parking but at the time apparently not nearly enough. One of the papers did a walk around the neighborhood and found half-a-dozen cars parked illegally (hydrant, yellow curb, expired meter) with notebooks on the dashboard and no tickets.

I'm a little with frykitty and a little with catfood on this one. I think it's a slippery slope, but I'm not sure I'm especially worried about it. Cops will always have their judgement. The guy who finds just the right tone will always get out of the ticket. The cop whose wife just left him will be giving out more regardless. It's human nature. If there aren't twenties involved, I'm reluctant to use the word corruption.

And bravo to new blood, if it means we get arguments between those who would eat felines and those who would feed them.
posted by dhartung at 1:07 AM on August 14, 2002


I think more is being made of the corruption viewpoint than should be. It's the police officer's decision to charge anyone with minor infractions, and has been for some time. This gives the accused the chance to do a little politicking, whether that's being polite, or showing that he or she is a friend or family member of another officer.

Frykitty: The second person is likely never to commit the infraction again.

Sadly, I don't think this is true. For one, I can speak from experience that those excused from minor traffic offenses (especially speeding) go right back to them after a short time. Maybe it's habit forming, who knows?
posted by samsara at 6:34 AM on August 14, 2002


Boy! I was asleep during all the fireworks between Catfood and FryKitty and missed all the action.

Catfood, you made many aspersions as to the veracity of some of the stories posted here, which I think was not fair. I live in Jersey and have several relatives and friends on the job. The stories sound generally correct to me.

Each PBA has its own procedure. Some have the officers sign the cards, some do not. With some it is the understanding that the cards are to be taken and returned to the officer and some not. While there is no formal written policy, and it is certainly up to each officer, there is also certainly an unwritten understanding that officers will overlook small offenses unless there is some good reason not to when presented with a PBA card. How small? That varies. A 10mph speeding violation, probably always gets overlooked unless the driver is a jerk to the cop. Drunk driving - well I have heard of several people who were let off, although they were close to home and only mildly over the limit, but I think this does not happen that often. I doubt the cards do much good either if someone is caught with drugs.

You have asserted that family members get a break in lots of industries. That may be fine for private industry which is not usually in a position of public trust, but not in government. Police officers are public servants and no segment of the public should receive preferential treatment. Should a judge give someone a break because their family works for the court? If some judge did, they would probably lose their job and be disbarred. Why shouldn't cops hold themselves to the same ethical standards?

The PBA card process is corrupt - a tit for tat trade - you let my family member or friend off and I will do the same for you. It is not a huge corruption and that is why most people do not care that much. It nevertheless is corruption.
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on August 14, 2002


Oh, don't make me say it.....

"Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Corruption in its many incarnations is like the grease in the gears of bureaucracy. Whether it's the postmaster who hires his nephew to work in the mail soritng room, or the cop who overlooks a violation for another cop's relative, or the governor who appoints his chauffeur to be the head of a state agency with no experience.

Nobody *really* wants to do away with corruption, because we all benefit from it occasionally, and it gives everyone something to rage against when a particularly egregious case of it comes to light.

American police departments have a long history of varying levels of corruption. But anyone invested with public authority usually does. It's human nature.
posted by briank at 8:37 AM on August 14, 2002


I also wonder how so many people acquired so many cards so easily.



That was pretty much the point of my lame-ass story. I only dated this guy 3 times-- did not even have a driver's license yet-- and he was still ready to give me one of his cards. I don't know, maybe he had several cards and no family in the area. Additional information: he worked for the Seal Beach Police Department in California, a very small beach community.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2002


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