Shameless Police Culture & The PBA Card
Nov. 30, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — About that PBA. No, not the magically retro Professional Bowling Association. Not the cosmetology juggernaut, the Professional Beauty Association, either. Not even the red hot Philippine Basketball Association. No, to anyone paying attention to the fault line (wink) between the police and the people of America, “PBA” stands for one thing. The Patrolmen’s (sometimes Policemen’s) Benevolent Association.
PBA unions represent hundreds of thousands of police officers around the country and wield unprecedented power. Here in the New York City area, the PBA usually only finds its way into the papers because of its leader and human false flag, Pat Lynch. When Lynch is not pantsing orphans, he oversees an organization that bargains with New York City for police employment contracts. During those discussions, everything from health and pension benefits to vacation and overtime compensation are hammered out. But there is one “benefit” that the PBA provides to all its members that is not a part of any debate. The PBA Card.
Anyone who belongs to a union probably has a similar card identifying the individual as a member of their particular union. What makes the PBA card unique is that members of this union receive multiple cards. Why? Are police officers particularly prone to union card misplacement? No, no.
Police officers are given more than one card so that they can distribute them to “deserving” people. People deemed worthy of receiving PBA Cards are usually family members, close personal friends, or someone the cop is trying to impress. In a bit of suggestive lobbying, PBA Cards somehow find their way into the wallets or purses of judges and politicians as well.
So what is so special about this small piece of plastic? When someone is pulled over for a traffic violation, they provide the cop with their license, registration, and PBA Card. The unwritten but widely known rule (especially in New York City and New Jersey) is that the PBA Card will get you out of a traffic ticket.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no more time-honored tradition of the American open road than trying to talk your way out of a traffic ticket. The PBA Card, though, provides a distinct advantage to its possessor. Late for work with no PBA Card – ticket. On the way to the grocery store while carrying a PBA Card – have a nice day. These cards are bestowed based solely upon proximity to the fondness of a cop, not upon merit or driving record.
Police and their supporters like to call this practice “professional courtesy,” completely obliterating the actual meaning of the word “professional” while apparently equating “courtesy” with “favoritism.” Others analogize this to something like a “friends and family discount” in the world of retail. The only way this analogy would work, though, would be if your friend who worked at the Gap allowed you to walk by the store, while strangers were forced to come in and buy a bunch of items they did not need and could not use.
No, the PBA Card is nothing more than an opportunity for police to protect their own from the often arbitrary and pointless highway robbery that is perpetrated upon America’s motorists. While common people outside the circle must shell out hundreds of dollars for not stopping “long enough” at the stop sign of an empty intersection, the PBA cardholder can roll on through with impunity. The motorist who cautiously abides (for the most part) the speed limit can be passed by a PBA cardholder who hasn’t a care in the world.
But with everything going on right now, who really gives a damn about some stupid union card, right? So what if a few wives or cousins or city councilors get out of that failure to signal ticket that the rest of us would be paying? Looking at it that simplistically, the problem would, indeed, seem to be miniscule to the point of invisibility. But if you only look at a building head on, you might think you are merely looking at a single wall, and you would miss the whole structure that exists behind the two dimensions in your field of vision.
The PBA Card is important because it validates two of the most problematic aspects of police culture. First, do as I say, not as I do. Two, it is cops against the world.
How often do we see a cop turn on the bubble gums to pop through a red light only to turn them off as soon as he crosses through the intersection. On the phone while driving. Parked in front of a hydrant or in a bike lane. Turn without a signal. Cops are allowed (by each other, not the law) to break the laws they enforce because they are oh-so-much-more important than us. If questioned, they can always just say that they were involved in an “emergency response situation” and that justifies everything, from traffic violations to murder.
There is also the “us versus them” mentality of our the police. We can never judge because we, the simple commoners, cannot fathom the knife’s edge world of the American warrior cop. We have become inured to blatant police misconduct, even criminal conduct, that goes unpunished time and time again. “They” are always justified. “We” simply don’t understand.
Now, not all cops hand out their cards, and not all cops will tear up that speeding ticket upon receipt of a PBA Card. These cops are doing it right. Unfortunately, the good ones receive no gold star or promotion for respecting the badge and being honest. In fact, they can face retribution from the “cool kids” (i.e. bad cops).
As an example of the kind of cop who has decided to do it the wrong way, here is a recent comment from user Ole Gravy Leg in the cop chat room, Thee Rant.
It’s important for me to get in touch with shield [omitted] and ask him why he felt it necessary to say “I’m not even going to look at that” to my PBA card and proceed [sic] to write a speeding ticket on the Bronx River Parkway yesterday afternoon to my fukking WIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ll show him the courtesy he so sorely lacks by not posting his name on a public forum.
Any help would be appreciated. Please inbox me.
I will find you.
I left out the shield number, because, well, fuck you, Ole Gravy Leg. I added the emphasis for the same reason. But more to the point, the brazen entitlement of OGL is shocking, not to mention his explicit threat. Sadly, the other commenters were just as horrified at the actions of the officer who ticketed Mrs. Leg.
Police/community relations are a tinder box right now. People march in our cities while hemmed in by cops with machine guns and body armor. Protesters and activists are right to focus on the cops who killed Laquan MacDonald and Tamir Rice, but we must also begin to look beyond the flat wall of police killings and start digging through the warehouse of favoritism, cronyism, racism, and militarism behind that wall.
When the PBA, the police union, hands out stacks of cards for the very purpose of bringing certain chosen people inside the accountability-free tent, how could this not nudge the good officers to bad and the bad officers to terrible?
It is true that no one has ever been killed by a PBA Card. But that card has a direct connection to the culture of tribalism and immunity that has tragically and unnecessarily brought down so many Americans. Will getting rid of the PBA Card handout save lives? Maybe not. But it might make a small but significant difference in reminding police that they are part of this community too.