It's safe to say that in the present day, there's a lot of extra scrutiny being placed upon police officers. Thanks to a combination of racial tension, social change, and a history of police abuse going largely unpunished, many people are demanding that we hold our officers of the law to a much higher standard, and scrutinize them accordingly.
While many police officers are ultimately kind and respectable public servants that just want to serve, protect, and make the world a better place, the unfortunate fact is that what tends to make the news are the officers who abuse their power, either for personal gain or to do harm.
One subject that's been especially controversial has been the notion of officers turning a blind eye to crimes committed by fellow officers, crimes which they would be more than happy to pull someone else over for committing. It creates an aura of favoritism that causes a lot of people to question the real motives behind why many officers take their job, and ultimately, even if it's supposed to be harmless, it doesn't leave a good impression.
So it happens that the New York City Police Department is the latest group to find itself the target of online scrutiny, after sources revealed that its officers are given a yearly allotment of "get out of jail free" cards meant to be given to friends and family so they can be pardoned from certain illegal activities...
According to Law & Crime, the unofficial cards are distributed by various police unions throughout the New York City metropolitan area, including the city's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association ("PBA").
As they report, "the courtesy cards are often used to avoid culpability for minor offenses like speeding tickets"“with users of the cards operating on the assumption that presenting one to an officer means you've got made status within the reaches of the NYPD organization."
Upon discovering this, the public outcry was pretty much immediate, especially on social media. Adam Bates, former policy analyst with CATO's Project on Criminal Justice, posted in response to the news on Facebook, "Cop unions are protection rackets."
The PBA's boss, Patrick Lynch, is no stranger to controversy, as he's the one who has attempted to sue in order to stop the release of any bodycam footage from officers to the public. However, in the case of the cards, he has stepped in and lowered the amount given annually from 30 to 20 for active duty officers, and 20 to 10 for retired ones. This decision was made after it was discovered that apparently many of the cards were being sold on ebay for up to $200.