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This Cop Says He Fought the System That Lets NYPD Friends and Relatives Break Traffic Laws With Impunity

Now he's paying the price.

A Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" card
(Mike Strozier / Flickr)

Poor Mathew Bianchi. According to a lawsuit filed last week, the Staten Island traffic cop has had a rough few years: His supervisors monitored his bodycam footage while he pulled people over; his fellow NYPD officers cyberbullied him on Facebook; the New York City Department of Investigation and the NYPD Internal Affairs Division blew him off; and his own union basically told him to go fuck himself. 

In short, New York's Finest (allegedly) ostracized Bianchi for committing the gravest sin a cop possibly can: He tried to make other cops, plus their friends and family members, actually follow the law.

Specifically, Bianchi claims he is facing retaliation for ticketing drivers even after they presented him with a police union courtesy card. When cops who outranked Bianchi told him to cut the crap and honor the cards, his legal team alleges that years of complaints about the courtesy card practice—plus issuing a ticket to a personal friend of NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey in 2022—earned him a demotion to a shitty patrol shift and a loss of access to the sweet overtime pay afforded by being a member of a special unit. 

Courtesy cards are essentially laminated business cards, issued on an annual basis to members of the city's five police unions, including the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Detectives' Endowment Association, Inc. Each card bears a specific union member's name and is supposed to serve as a "get out of jail free" pass for anyone who has one, especially when it comes to traffic violations. 

And, according to Bianchi, in practice that really does mean anyone: 

"It’s not just members of service getting them for their mom, dad, son, etc," he wrote in a 2022 complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board and Internal Affairs. "[M]any members give these cards out for special favors. The owner of the restaurant that 'hooks us up' gets some, the MOS with a side business gives it to his drivers, the landlord MOS gives it to their tenant that pays rent, the guy at the deli that gives us a dollar off our sandwich gets one, or the contractor that gives us a price break gets one too."

Before his demotion, Bianchi claims that he was pressured to let courtesy card holders off with a warning for offenses like speeding, running red lights, using their cell phones while driving, or not wearing a seatbelt, all while he was required to hit a quota of five summonses per day. (The NYPD denies that quotas exist. "We will review the lawsuit if and when we are served," a department spokesperson told us.) In one instance, Bianchi says his body camera footage was reviewed "several times" after he ticketed the father of a New York State Trooper. In another, Bianchi says received threatening calls from a woman's husband, a retired NYPD officer, and her son, a current NYPD officer, after pulling her over; he also says he was pressured to give a cop's sister a warning after she presented a courtesy card as her only form of identification during a car stop. 

Even after he was transferred to regular patrol in 2022, Bianchi alleges that he had to deal with…whatever this is:

"On February 25, 2023, Plaintiff stopped the wife of Sergeant Richard Oscasio for driving without a seatbelt and running a red light. Sergeant Ocasio calls the command to prevent him from issuing the ticket. Plaintiff after being called and told not to write the ticket, gave the woman a warning because he was fearful of being retaliated against. During the process of the car stop, Sergeant Oscasio actually showed up to the scene in an effort to intimidate Plaintiff into not writing the ticket. Specifically Oscasio showed up to the car stop in a Tesla and proceeds [sic] to drive back and forth motioning to Plaintiff like he was going to stop and waving his shield out the window."

Still, Bianchi told the New York Daily News that he "probably honored the cards 95 percent of the time since joining the NYPD in 2015," which means his five percent non-compliance was allegedly enough to tank his career. That's because courtesy cards are a physical manifestation of the way cops use discretion—the power to use their own judgment when enforcing the law—when policing their own people. The cards embody the classic cop entitlement mindset, a "rules for thee, but not for me (or the guy who cleans leaves out of my gutters)" attitude that transforms something like Bianchi's resistance to playing the game into an existential threat. If rogue, law-abiding cops stop honoring courtesy cards, who knows what kind of crack in the blue wall of silence could appear next? 

In spite of all the ethical and moral objections to courtesy cards that he detailed in the complaint, Bianchi also told the Daily News both his wife and his father have courtesy cards that he gave them—although, at this point, they probably wouldn't have much luck using them.

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