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The Sad Story of the One Cop That Actually Cared About Traffic Enforcement

Courtesy (cards), Professionalism, Respect

9:04 AM EST on January 17, 2024

(Benjamin Jopen/Unsplash)

In New York City, the NYPD is not so much in the business of enforcing traffic laws as they are in relentlessly breaking them, as evidenced by defaced plates on personal cars, police cruisers parked in bike lanes, personal and NYPD cars parked on sidewalks, and then, of course, the ubiquitous flouting of all traffic laws by the friends and families of cops through the use of police union "courtesy cards," are essentially get-out-of-jail-free cards for police-adjacent motorists.

Courtesy card use is widespread and flagrant throughout the five boroughs (and probably New Jersey and Long Island too, if we had to guess). But what if there was one cop, a cop born and raised outside of New York, a cop who didn't grow up in the bosom of official lawlessness, who really, really cared about stopping the deadly scourge of dangerous driving? 

That would be NYPD officer Mathew Bianchi, who explained to the New York Times that he became a police officer because he actually cared about things like traffic laws. (Hell Gate wrote about Bianchi this past May). 

"When I was a kid, I used to joke around," he told the Times. "I used to see people driving badly and it was like, I wish I could be a cop and give that guy a ticket. And that’s what I ended up doing!" (Bianchi believed, at the time, that his mother died in a car accident when he was young. It was later revealed that she had actually been a victim of a homicide.)

So when he spotted a woman who ran a red light in a Mazda on Staten Island in 2018, he pulled her over. The driver produced a union card, but Bianchi gave her a summons anyway.

Bianchi had just committed a cardinal sin for PBA union members—violating the very code they live by: that while they might enforce some laws, they and their friends and relatives are mostly above them. His supervisor scolded him for ticketing the woman in the Mazda, and explained how things worked. Bianchi played along, but eventually, he couldn't ignore the constant parade of impunity.

From the Times: 

And card-toting drivers didn’t learn from their mistakes — why would they? — so Bianchi found himself pulling over the same people three, four, even five times. Bianchi stopped one teenager about a dozen times; he got so familiar with the family that the kid’s father began sending him holiday greetings. (The kid is now a police officer.)

Eventually, Bianchi filed complaints with the City's Department of Investigation and the Civilian Complaint Review board, but to no avail.

So what happened to Bianchi, this seemingly idealistic, stubborn NYPD officer who believed in safer streets for everyone, even people who are related to, are friends with, or have done favors for cops? 

In August of 2022, he crossed paths with the wrong cop. That would be Table of Success member Jeffrey Maddrey, currently the department's highest-ranking uniformed police officer, who apparently kicked Bianchi out of traffic enforcement after Bianchi ticketed a friend of his. Now on street patrol, Bianchi is still handing out tickets, just not in the traffic enforcement unit. He's still suing the NYPD for the apparent retaliation by Maddrey, but apparently the two sides are in settlement talks. Will that settlement end the use of PBA courtesy cards? We doubt it. And until then, New York City's streets will remain filled with extremely dangerous drivers, many with an official sign-off from NYPD officers. 

And now for some links you can't wriggle your way out of: 

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