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NYPD cops to get fewer 'get out of jail free' cards to give family and friends — and they're upset

New York Police Department gather as a group of protesters staged a sit-in last Wednesday at New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's office in New York. Some NYPD officers are reportedly upset that their union is reducing the number of "get out of jail free" cards they will be allowed to pass out to family and friends. (Timothy Clary/Getty Images)

According to a report from the New York Post, New York police officers are upset that their police union has reduced the number of so-called "get out of jail free cards" that it issues to its members.

What's the story?

For years, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has issued the cards to current and retired police officers to distribute to family and friends. In prior years, active NYPD officers would receive 30 per year, and retired officers would receive 20 per year.

The cards did not officially get the bearer out of jail or even out of traffic tickets, but they could be presented to police in hopes that cops would let them out of minor infractions like speeding tickets. The theory would be that the cop would believe that you were the close friend of another cop (or perhaps had done them a favor) and thus should be let out of minor infractions.

This year, the PBA reduced the number of cards it issued to active members to 20, and to retired members to 10. According to the Post, the program came under criticism when it came to light that the cards were being sold on eBay for as much as $200 apiece.

Officers who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity were described as being "livid" and complaining that the union is "treating active members like s**t and retired members even worse than s**t."

This writer's perspective

The correct number of "get out of jail free tickets" that the PBA should issue to its members is zero.

This entire program promotes disrespect for the rule of law for a number of reasons.

First, one of the principal tenets of a free society is that those who are entrusted with the enforcement of the law are held to a higher standard than ordinary civilians, not a lower one. It is a central feature of totalitarian societies that those who are given badges and firearms and uniforms are allowed to themselves break the law with a wink and a nod.

Second, it is an even more grotesque mockery of a fair criminal justice system that such favors can be imparted simply from knowing police — or worse, simply purchased on the internet. At best, the program creates two classes of citizens: people who are fortunate enough to be friends or relatives of police, and those who are not. At worst, it encourages outright corruption that would in any other context be called bribery. If all the NYPD cops profit from the sale of these cards on eBay, then all cops have a humongous market incentive to treat them as binding, so as to increase their market value. After all, the more reliable the card is in actually getting people out of jail, the more people will pay for it on eBay.

Third, as evidenced by the incredibly tone deaf reaction of the officers quoted in the Post article, it has created a sense of entitlement among some NYPD officers that brings disrepute on the whole department. NYPD members are upset because they are losing a source of extra income and/or personal favors. The spectacle of NYPD officers angrily complaining to a New York paper because their stack of bribery coupons has been reduced will only make the public more jaded about the fairness of the police who ostensibly protect them and likewise make officer/citizen relations more difficult.

It is truly incredible that such a program was ever conceived in the first place, and perhaps more incredible that police officers feel entitled to its continuation, even in the face of evidence that it is being subjected to gross abuse and bringing public disrepute on their department. The PBA should do the right thing and end the program altogether, and if they won't, the city should insist upon it during the next round of collective bargaining with the union.

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