Perusers of eBay may from time to time find an auction of cards signifying membership in the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. No seller seems to be stupid enough to say the cards are for getting special treatment from the police, and some offer warnings like, “These cards should only be bidden on for the purpose of… Collectible Items only!”
Of course that’s not why anyone wants them.
Put out by NYPD’s unions so members can give it to family and friends, the card alerts NYC officers the carrier should be treated with courtesy. A Google search of “NYPD PBA card” suggests, though, that the cards aren’t just about courtesy, but are mainly prized for getting civilian New Yorkers out of the consequences of minor legal hassles like traffic violations.
For example, a poster at the Maxima cars forum, Maxima.org, claims to have escaped a ticket in Queens using the apparently-purchased plastic:
After making an illegal turn on Queens Blvd, the poster claims, he was pulled over by an NYPD cop. “He is like Sir, where did u get that? I am like my uncle is a cop and he gave it to me. (I BS’d). He is like “c’mon you guys gotta start reading signs and not waste our time, don’t do this next time” and he let me go.”
Another poster, on a forum called Expert Law, claims PBA cards work, but then also cautions readers “…some cops will give you a ticket anyway,they won’t make an exception, most cops will however. The writer adds people shouldn’t think of the items as a get out of jail free cards. “If you do something really stupid or dangerous and get caught, you will be ticketed and even go to jail no matter how many PBA cards you have.”
All the same, in 2006, the card’s power to ward off tickets was being peddled on eBay. The New York Times reported:
“Although eBay says that there is nothing illegal about the sales, lawyers
for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association say they are inappropriate and
are trying to stop the practice. They are especially upset about postings
that imply that anyone can use the cards to avoid tickets, said Al O’Leary,
a spokesman for the union.
“We have been vigilant about getting in touch with people selling them,’ Mr.
O’Leary said. ‘We tell our members that if these cards are coming from a
P.B.A. member, that member will be put on notice, and if they are coming
from a retired officer, he is told to cease and desist’ or risk not getting
In the same year, PBA recording secretary Robert Zink wrote an article on the subject, “This PBA Card is Not for Sale”:
“A quick check of eBay demonstrates that not all PBA cards are being
distributed appropriately. They are actually being offered for sale on that
popular electronic auction site, and some sellers are asking — and getting —
top dollar for the cards, which should not be for sale at any price.”
The article implied the PBA would be doggedly pursuing eBay sellers to stop the practice of hawking PBA cards. “If you learn of anyone who is selling the cards — on eBay or anywhere — let the lawyers in the PBA General Counsel’s office know about it, so they can do something about it,” Zink wrote.
So if you see this and you’re a PBA membership, you might want to forward them the eBay link we cited. If you’re not a member: Good luck on bidding…
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2009