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The Handy Wallet Card That Says “I’m Friends With The Police”

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October 16, 2020

Sometimes called courtesy cards, tens of thousands have been distributed by police union members to simpatico friends and acquaintances, primarily in a few big cities. The drill is, if you are stopped – e.g., for a minor traffic offense or a broken tail light – and you show the card along with your driver’s license, you might get off with a warning. Cops themselves have various attitudes about this system, according to a number of interviews in a feature article from Vice News. (“Some officers, I think they’d summons their own mother,” says one criminal justice professor, who is also a former NYPD officer.) New York City’s police union is said to give each of its 24,000 active members 20 of these cards, so there are minimally tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of them in circulation in New York alone. A version of this system is said to operate in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Boston. This entire scenario falls under the semi-technical law enforcement term “police discretion,” which is usually couched and often criticized in terms of what police choose to enforce rather than what they choose not to enforce. Philando Castile, for example, per an article linked to in this post, had been stopped by police 46 times before his last such encounter, in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was shot and killed.

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