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.

  • com63

    This is the real reason many people are against speed and red light cameras. There is no one to show your PBA card too if you get one of those tickets.

  • Reader

    I wonder how many cops who tackle poor people for evading a $2.75 subway fare have some of these in their pocket.

  • Mister Sterling

    Bravo for this post.

  • EcoAdvocate

    Police don’t own the roads. They don’t have a right to give out personal VIP passes to their buddies for free use of taxpayer funded space. Shame.

  • EcoAdvocate

    yes! the cameras don’t judge. While some systems (run by for-profit companies) have been set up to trick drivers (like short yellows) when the system is set up for signal light or for speeding, it’s just reporting exactly what happened. It doesn’t look at the driver’s race, their income level, or if they are a PBA-buddy.

  • Police don’t own the roads.

    They don’t agree. They blatantly announce that they own the streets.

    These lawless thugs have forgotten who works for whom. And the people runing the civilian government evidently do not have the will to remind them, or to rein them in by any means.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I checked out Thee Rant for the rank and file view. Seems like there used to be 2 per officer, but then the whole thing got out of control. Kind of like the MTA debt, retroactive pension increases, executive pay, etc.

    NYCTPF YOU SAID A MOUTH FULL. WHEN WE CAME ON YOU GOT TWO CARDS A YEAR. ONE WENT TO MY FATHER AND THE OTHER WENT TO MY BROTHER. WHEN I GOT MARRIED MY BROTHER WAS LEFT OUT. MY FIRST COUSIN ASKED FOR A CARD AND I TOLD HIM TO TAKE THE TEST. HE NEVER ASKED AGAIN.

    WITH ALL THE LINE ORG. OUT THERE, I GUESS YOU JUST MIGHT HAVE A HALF MILLION CARDS OUT THERE. OTHERWISE THERE FUCHING USELESS TO A COP ON PATROL. THERE MIGHT BE 50 THOUSAND WHO ARE CLOSELY RELATED TO A COP.

    Half a million? Try 2.5 million!

    If there were 2.5 million placards, those would be useless too.

    Ah well, at least the serfs can ride electric bicycles. ?

  • JarekFA

    Oh, and of course they expect to be 100% exempt from the congestion pricing cordon. That’s for sure.

  • Urbanely

    I don’t understand why there should be ANY of these cards. If you commit an offense, you should get a warning or a ticket based on some objective criteria, not officer discretion or connections to officers.

    COIB has rules that (in theory) prevent City employees from using their positions to get jobs for family and friends, but then cops giving out benefit cards to friends to friends and family is ok? Why?

  • Larry Littlefield
  • MasonEagle

    Any officer caught waiving tickets for card holders should be charged with a crime and immediately dismissed from the department. How about that? Seems like a pretty no-brainer solution. The commissioner needs to announce this new policy ASAP in order to save the reputation of the NYPD because currently, they’re a disgrace to this city.

  • kevd

    It isn’t that they are “waived” – but they are never written.
    The card is handed to the officer with license and registration. The officer can then decide to simply issue a verbal warning.
    But, when does the NYPD even pull people over?

  • MasonEagle

    Yeah that’s what I meant by “waive” – waive the idea of giving them a ticket in the first place.

  • MasonEagle

    Can you report those items to eBay? I can’t do it because I don’t have an eBay account.

  • Elizabeth F

    Reminds me of the pre-reformation practice of selling indulgences.

  • AnoNYC

    Check out the parking jobs on the block of the 5th precinct. There’s actually no reason to park with the outer wheels on the sidewalk because there’s enough room for others to pass as long as they drive slowly.

    https://goo.gl/maps/BFUR6w4iJcu

  • AnoNYC

    One of the big problems here is that so many cops live outside the city, and as a result most drive. I don’t have the exact percentage but it has to be a substantial amount living in the burbs. Also, the whole can’t live in the same precinct you work is B.S. Does any other police department require that? The corruption excuse doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me. Police officers should live in the places they work so they actually give somewhat of a damn about the community.

  • MyBrooklyn1

    You make me laugh…these everyday underpaid overworked heroes risk lives to keep imbeciles safe…NYPD members are great people of NYC who keep city safe and happy….

  • MyBrooklyn1

    Finally someone said something with common sense of course these heroes keep our streets safe by risking their lives.

  • Joe R.

    There should be a NYC residency requirement for any city job, especially police. If housing is supposedly too expensive for them to afford to live here, then do one of two things. Either pay them more, or have housing built above police stations. Give this housing to the officers in the precinct free of charge as an employment perk. It’s probably cheaper for the city to do this than to pay police enough to afford market rate housing. Maybe even do the same thing with teachers.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Nor do I.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Being a cop is a job. There are more dangerous jobs out there. If they can’t do their job professionally and without petty corruption, they shouldn’t be on the force.

  • comix4dinner

    And if those imbeciles are their friends, they let them get away with dangerous behavior and make us all less safe.

  • djx

    If you are a police officer, please quit now. Get a job where you can’t break the law out of your sense of entitlement.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Richardlovesbklyn

    Join the Marines, our U.S military men and women , don’t get any preferential treatment when they come home , They are my heroes ! I support my P.D 90 % . I support my military vets and active fighters 100%

  • GuyfromQueens

    One thing that strikes me upon reading this and reflecting is as that drivers, in NYC and elsewhere, view certain traffic laws as a racket perpetuated by the government upon them. What I mean by this is that the average driver has a deep and ingrained view that many laws, particularly around parking and drop offs, are simply a way for the government to make money. They refuse or are unable to see any public good to obeying alternate side, meters, or double parking rules. It’s not just that people don’t like paying a ticket. It’s that deep in their bones they find the whole system of having parking rules an unfair sham. And since many of our PD drive to work, and essentially share that driving view of these laws as a sham, they’re now pissed.

  • MrLomez

    Take police discretion away by automating ticketing. Of course this would require way fewer traffic agents and police, but these workers are being funded by the majority of us unlucky enough to not have a placard/pba card/vest/box of donuts to put on our dashboards. Need to measure and communicate the overall unfairness of letting traffic agent and police tax (regressively?) some people so they can draw a salary and grant free parking to themselves and their friends. This may mean reducing fines while increasing enforcement (this is basically how those in affluent neighborhoods think about $45-$65 alternate side parking tickets). The logical end is automated dynamic parking fees, but if people prefer to call them fines and make them lower and marginally avoidable, that’s OK too.

  • MasonEagle

    LOL good one

  • NYCyclist

    They are all in the “Collectible” category, so eBay will leave them up.

  • kevd

    Pretty difficult for an investigating body to uncover that chain of events when the office just gives a verbal warning.

  • This is a very clear explanation of the problem. It’s a deep societal problem; and, if we’re going to make any serious progress in the improvment of our streets, this ugly ideology must be attacked head-on by people in positions of leadership.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    One step removed from the folded $50 or $100 bill

  • Toddster

    People in the military get an insane amount of preferential treatment and bonuses from entertainment discounts to the ability to cut the line when boarding a plane – to an ever expanding government budget.

    If you want to talk about heroes, maybe the people working at non-profits for little pay, few benefits, increasingly fleeting funding and no societal perks, respect or preferential treatment whatsoever could use your praise.

  • AnoNYC

    And about parking. Just designate more curbside spots around the precinct to police vehicles. I can’t stand the sidewalk parking. Personal vehicles, good luck.

  • cjstephens

    While I agree with the sentiment, giving cops the perk of free housing at the precinct is a terrible idea. Given how they abuse the perks they already have (see article above), why would you trust them with yet another? Also, I’m pretty sure that cops aren’t allowed to live in the precinct where they work.

  • cjstephens

    Or maybe expect cops to take transit to work like everyone else who works in the densest parts of the city?

  • cjstephens

    Yes. It’s not just boarding a plane (why? How did that become a thing?). It’s going to the front of the line for every government job. This is a massive entitlement. And woe betide anyone who dares question it. If you think affirmative action advocates are zealous, they’re nothing when compared to people pushing for veterans’ preferences.

  • AnoNYC

    I was referring to police vehicles.

  • cjstephens

    My mistake. Though there would be more room for them if police officers’ private vehicles weren’t also taking up so much curb space (for free).

  • Justin

    This “public employees are underpaid” mantra has been pushed by their unions for a long time, but I question is it really true?

    I’m not so familiar with the NYPD, but over at the FDNY you can bypass the time and expense of going to college; start at age 20; be at six figures by age 25, and retire at age 42 and a half. Free lifetime health benefits and average pension is around $120K a year.

    When I read NYT articles about the MTA, the TWU employees are well paid. And, when I read NY Post stories about cops behaving badly, it generally publishes their salaries, I can’t recall seeing any making less than $100K and keep in mind that even senior NYPD are about the age of mid-career workers elsewhere.

    When I compare these to salaries I’m used to seeing in the non-Wall Street corporate world, these people seem to be doing pretty well.

  • kevd

    The frequency of alt side rules does seem to me like a racket in some neighborhoods – or a make work program for NYDS. Or, simply a needless accommodation of NYers propensity to litter wantonly.

    Also interesting that in some areas drivers just move the cars across the street, double park and walk away till the sweeper comes by. In other areas, they are ticketed for that and have to wait in their cars.

    Shocking absolutely no one with an ounce of common sense, there seems to be a strong positive correlation between neighborhood wealth and whiteness, and how much leeway is given to those street cleaning double parkers.

  • kevd

    they are not.
    because of history of corruption in NYC, and to avoid intimidation of cops and their families.

  • neroden

    Pat Lynch is a corrupt scumbag who has committed terrorist acts in the past. He belongs in prison at hard labor. If the level of corruption was getting so bad that *he* wanted to cut it back… wow.

  • neroden

    It should be illegal to live *outside* the precinct in which you work.

    It makes sense for police not to investigate their personal family and friends, but the precincts are *huge*.

  • neroden

    Frankly I think the corrupt, crime-gang cops in the NYPD need to get intimidated by the public. They seem to think they are above the law. They need to recognize that the community is the true source of power.

  • neroden

    NYPD cops are overpaid. Of course, they’re joining a criminal mafia gang, with all the downsides involved in that (see Serpico, Schoolcraft, etc.), so I suppose the extra pay is to compensate for (a) the moral corruption and (b) the threat of being attacked for ratting out other mobsters

  • neroden

    NYPD is a crime gang, a mafia which threatens innocent people while letting killers run free. It’s now *exceedingly* well documented.

  • neroden

    Indeed, the lawless thug gang of the NYPD is out of control. Time to stop them once and for all. Liquidate the department.

    They went on “strike” a year or so back and crime *dropped*. Remember? I’m guessing this is because most of the crime was committed by the NYPD. Just get rid of the entire department. They don’t prosecute killers — they’re doing nothing useful — and they harass innocent people — so they’re actively causing harm.

    The whole bunch of apples has been spoilt at the NYPD. It’s been spoilt since before Serpico. The only solution is to fire ALL of them. Get rid of the whole department. Start fresh… if it turns out a police department is necessary, you can start a new one. (This is not entirely clear — it may not be necessary.)

  • A police department is certainly necessary.

    But we should indeed have a new one, a department which hires only educated people, such as people with criminal justice degrees or people who have experience with community policing. The job of police officer should be very high paying, because the job is stressful and dangerous, and carries a lot of responsibility — and also so that college graduates will be attracted to the position.

    And these jobs should go exclusively to New Yorkers rather than to people from what Ron Kuby has dubbed Whitelandia, fascists and thugs who hate New York City and who regard New Yorkers (especially black and Latin New Yorkers) as subhuman.

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