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get out jail free card signifying police corruption

A lengthy article in the New York Times describes the plight of Mathew Bianchi, a police officer in Staten Island, New York. Bianchi faced a career-altering challenge when he issued a traffic ticket to a woman carrying a police union courtesy card. Bianchi had been instructed that holders of the courtesy cards, known to insiders as “get out of jail free” cards, should not be ticketed.


On August 31, 2022, Bianchi pulled over a woman who appeared to be using her phone while driving. As the Times reports, “Bianchi did the wrong thing, which is to say, the right thing: He wrote the woman a ticket.”


The incident marked the beginning of Bianchi's struggle against the unwritten rules of favoritism within the New York City Police Department. Bianchi, known for his strict adherence to traffic laws, was confronted by a high-ranking police union official, Albert Acierno, after the incident. Acierno emphasized the importance of the courtesy cards as symbols of police brotherhood and solidarity. Bianchi, however, saw these cards as a sign of impunity and favoritism, conflicting with his sense of moral duty and fairness.


Raised by his grandmother on Staten Island after his mother's death, Bianchi joined the police force later in life, at the age of 32. His upbringing instilled in him a strong moral compass and a sense of justice, which later influenced his approach to policing.


Bianchi's opposition to police corruption and commitment to issuing tickets regardless of the driver's connections led to conflicts with his supervisors and colleagues. He faced backlash on social media and from retired officers for not adhering to the unspoken rule of overlooking offenses by "get out of jail free" cardholders. Despite quotas officially being barred, Bianchi was expected to issue a certain number of tickets daily, which he diligently fulfilled.


Bianchi's career in the traffic division came to an abrupt end after he ticketed a woman who was a friend of Jeffrey Maddrey, then the chief of patrol. Bianchi was subsequently transferred out of the traffic unit and back to patrol. He filed a lawsuit against New York City, claiming that his transfer was retaliation for his actions and his stance against the courtesy card system.


Despite the challenges, Bianchi remains committed to his principles and continues to excel in traffic enforcement, even while on patrol. He hopes to be transferred back to the traffic division, maintaining his belief in fair and unbiased law enforcement.

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