The Real Get Out of Jail Free Cards

December 15, 2011

Political Theory


Coming from New York I was shocked to hear that Michigan did not have a system similar to our PBA cards. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association issues these cards to active or retired police officers of New York. They are then given to close family members of the New York Police Department. They distinguish a connection that the cardholder may have with a member of the police department or authority.  PBA cards let the cardholders avoid minor situations that involve the law especially with traffic violations. These cards are used basically like name-dropping but just in a subtler manner. If a police officer pulled a person over with a PBA card for a traffic violation, the officer would often let the cardholder go with a warning as a professional courtesy to the officer issuing the cards.

I have personally been pulled over before for going over the speed limit and since I have a PBA card, the officer just let me go with a warning. Situations like mine are not unique. I was able to break the law without any consequences. I have noticed articles throughout the web addressing the issues with PBA cards. An article in the New York Post demonstrates the main issue regarding PBA cards.  It calls attention to the problem of selling the cards as being fraudulent since the buyers are wrongfully using them.

But none of these articles include the overall morality of PBA cards.

It gives the cardholder a false sense of security causing them to possibly push their boundaries. It also does not hold the cardholders to the same standards as everyone else. PBA cards influence the enforcement of the law. Failed laws are laws that are unenforced.  Thus, PBA cards make our laws ineffective and failed.

Do you think that people of higher power and connections to the police department be held above the law? Do you think that PBA cards should be considered legal and socially acceptable?

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7 Comments on “The Real Get Out of Jail Free Cards”

  1. ryanjcarney Says:

    Ideally – No police officers and their families should not be held above the law in a free democracy. In fact, police getting special treatment and flying above the law is the sort of stuff police states are made of so the fact that these cards exist is pretty frustrating. Admittedly though I’d be the first person taking advantage of one of these cards if i had one. In the real world things aren’t ideal and connections count for a lot so one just has to deal with it – I just wish it wasn’t so blatant as flashing a card to fly above the law.

  2. jps3520 Says:

    I would agree that these don’t really uphold justice the way that the law should. People should always be held accountable for the things that they have done. However, there will always be people who can get around the system, whether it be by a PBA card or bribe or whatever. A lot of times we also hear about preferential treatment to celebrities when they get crimes, whether these reports are true or not.

    Now whether they get rid of these cards or not won’t stop the problem. For example, I know a guy whose dad works at a police department. He has been pulled over before, a couple of times. He hasn’t ever dropped his dad’s name, but they see his last name, they ask who his dad is, and he gets let off with a warning. So this sort of thing is not just happening in New York. However, there is at least a card there that signifies a close connection with the police there. Here it doesn’t make people believe they are above the law, but it can be slightly unfair in certain circumstance. The situation here is a little different because it varies from officer to officer, but they are pretty similar. Overall my friend has gotten a couple minor things through his years, but he could have had worse and having his dad has helped him a little.

  3. albosco Says:

    Before this post I had never heard of such PBA cards. I always thought it was more of luck of the draw that you would be pulled over by someone who knew your connection to the police force. I am actually quite surprised that such a thing exists. I always figured that getting out of a ticket of traffic violation was due to the ability of the offender to relate to the officer and hope for their compassion. I never thought that there was an actual card that could guarantee a warning.

    As for the fairness and legitimacy of these cards, I am not sure that I agree with them. I understand why they were created in the first place. People that risk their lives everyday to serve and protect their community are real life heros and they deserve to receive something back in return. However, I do not think that allowing their close friends and family to break the law without punishment is the correct compensation. Especially because these cards almost guarantee walking away from an incident without getting in any trouble, they almost provoke the card holders to break the law. Personally, if I knew that I wouldn’t get a ticket for speeding, I would be much more inclined to speed. There is a reason for every law, a lot of the time it is to protect the safety of yourself and others. If they are not enforced, there really is no point in having them in the first place.

    I don’t think that there is any exception for the law or that it is fair some people can be held above it. The law should apply to everyone.

  4. pjbiondi Says:

    I would say that police officers will ultimately be held above the law. Since they are suppose to enforce the law they can determine if they want to break the rules they enforce. As much I hate when I see a cop run a red light or speeding on the highway, they make the rules when they are driving. Other police officers won’t pull them over because they know damn well that they are doing the same thing. It’s kind of an unwritten rule book that one cop will not pull over another cop or rat them out.

    If I was like you and had one of those PBA cards I would be the first one to take advantage of it, and who wouldn’t. It is essentially a get out of jail free card. Not that I break the law, but I do enjoy driving fast and I don’t always stop completely at stop signs (but who really does anyway). I think that the cards should be legal because it is already known that family members with people in uniform will get off on more things that people without. This is just another way to prove that you are one of those”elite” members.\

    We need to find a special type of card for those other people who don’t have family in the police force. I could really use one.

  5. maddycaroline Says:

    As stated in the comment above me, this is the first time I am hearing about PBA cards and I’m from New York. But, now knowing that my state does such a thing is quite upsetting. I know that there are people who get out of trouble more easily then others, but I thought that was just because name-dropping seems to work in almost every situation. I understand, though don’t agree with, the fact that members of the police force get out of most minor troubles with the law but I just don’t get why their family is allowed to also. There is nothing that can be done about the name-dropping aspect of the law, but regular people who have the simple luck of being related to a police officer should not be treated in the same way. If they are not a police officer (not counting those who are retired), then they shouldn’t be treated as one. No one should be the exception to the law, however with police officers themselves there isn’t really a way to monitor that, but regular americans should all be treated the same. Police officers might be protectors of the community but they shouldn’t be able to give others exceptions from the law, no matter what. What’s the point of enforcing the law if there are people who are considered above it? The PBA shouldn’t be in use because everyone, no matter who they know, should be treated the same in the eyes of the law.

  6. kirtip Says:

    I understand that PBA cards are a way of thanking and respecting the police officers who put their lives on the lines. However, I think the cards are a bad idea. First of all, like you said, they allow people to push the limit and this can end with dangerous consequences. Secondly, it puts police above the law. There is often a lot of controversy with police stretching the limits of the law because, well, they are the law. It creates situations where the people enforcing the law are above it, and this becomes eerily similar to a rule of fear like Hobbes discussed. While not to that extent, I think you never want to have the law enforcers be above the law. Lastly, the law is the law of our country, and it should apply to absolutely everyone in our society, whether they have a gun and badge or not. In my opinion, I think the PBA cards should be removed.

  7. pelarkin Says:

    The fact that there are cards like this somewhat concerns me. The justice system in our country was designed so that no one, even the people in the highest echelons of our government, is above the law. This is a problem in many different nations today, where the leaders and many government officials are considered to be above the law, and as such, they are free to commit crimes as they please. I, in no way, endorse a justice system like this, because, in my opinion, there should not be anyone who is above the law. Even those who dedicate themselves to the law, and I am very grateful that they do so, are not above it, and should never be above it.

    So, as it can be seen, I do not think that PBA cards should be legal. Like I said, no one is above the law. The fact that police officers and their close relatives are able to freely commit minor crimes without fear of punishment, in my opinion, is not right, no matter what they have done for society. In the grand scheme of things, its not bad, but the fact that there are many a corruptible police officer out there who would be willing to sell their PBAs for some cold hard cash somewhat scares me. If these cards fell into the wrong hands, there could be a major crisis that the government could have to deal with, while the criminal could just say “Oh, don’t worry, I had a PBA, so you can’t do anything to me.” I ’m very surprised that the state of New York (and probably other states, now that I think about it) have these sorts of things, since it was always my belief that there was no one above the law.

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