Overhead shop of two police officers exiting a NYPD Ford Explorer on the street.

Overhead shop of two police officers exiting a NYPD Ford Explorer on the street.

NYPD officers wear face masks in Kips Bay on December 07, 2020 in New York City.

A New York City police officer is suing the department over unofficial get-out-of-jail free cards used by friends and family of cops to get out of traffic tickets.

Officer Mathew Bianchi filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan over reprisals he suffered at the hands of his superiors for not complying with the corrupt and unsanctioned practice. According to Bianchi’s lawsuit, it doesn’t take much for a non-officer to earn a courtesy card, and they can even be found for sale on eBay. from the Associated Press:

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In a federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan this week, Officer Mathew Bianchi described a practice of selective enforcement with consequences for officers who don’t follow the unwritten policy. Current and retired officers now have access to hundreds of cards, giving them away in exchange for a discount on a meal or a home improvement job, he said.

In the Staten Island precinct where he works, a predominantly white area with a high percentage of cops and other city workers, Bianchi said multitudes of people he pulled over for traffic infractions flashed him one of the cards.

“I see card after card. You’re not allowed to write any of them (up),” he told The Associated Press. “We’re not supposed to show favoritism when we do car stops, and we shouldn’t be giving them out because the guy mows my lawn.”

Bianchi was threatened with demotion and withdrawal of union protection for not letting drivers with cards off scot-free from traffic infractions, according to the Guardian. Ticketing a friend of a NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, led to him being busted down to night patrol.

Prior to the lawsuit, Bianchi attempted to go through other channels to have his concerns heard, filling out a complaint with the Bureau of Internal Affairs. And of course, there is also a racial component to the unofficial policy. from the Guardian:

“Even though my car stop was a standard stop with no confrontation I am still being retaliated against solely because the motorist I summoned knows a chief and that chief is now mad at me,” he wrote in a complaint quoted in the suit. “This is not only corrupt but it’s a safety issue.”

He claimed that the practice of selective law enforcement, including giving the cards away in exchange for a discount on a meal or a home improvement job, comes with a component of racial bias.

Staten Island, where Bianchi patrolled, is predominantly white. White drivers in the borough, the complaint said, “are significantly more likely to have courtesy cards than minority drivers”. As a result of a ticketing quota system, this means “police officers are forced to disproportionately ticket minority drivers”.


Ronnie Dunn, a professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University who has written a number of academic papers on structural racism in traffic ticketing practices, said that what Bianchi is alleging is a form of bias.

“It’s not only racial bias, because minorities are less likely to be given courtesy cards based on the demographics of the police, but it also creates a status bias, because courtesy cards give impunity to violate traffic laws to families and friends of law enforcement and predominantly European-Americans,” Dunn said.

New York police are constantly under scrutiny for shady goings-on inside their precincts. The department is being questioned after Chief Maddrey improperly voiced an officer had his arrest for threatening children with a gun. A New York cruiser was recently caught on camera appearing to try to crash into a moped driver. They park their cruisers on New York sidewalks at everyone else’s expense and NYPD car crashes have cost the city over half a billion over the last decade. Recently a bicyclist was fined for uncovering a “ghost car’s” license plate while the driver got away with no ticket.

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By Chiki