PBA Cards and Police Discretion: Does Membership Have Its Privileges?

Christopher Kudlac, Fordham University

ABSTRACT
Some level of police discretion is an inevitable consequence of the numerous decisions a police officer faces daily. In light of recent cases of police abuse of force and racial profiling, most scholarly inquiry has focused on whether police have exercised their discretion fairly/justly. Unexplored in the literature, however, has been consideration of how affiliation with a police association in the form of a membership card (or P.B.A. card) distributed to police officers and their family and friends may favorably influence the outcome of interactions with police. This paper addresses the extent to which the use of the PBA card has resulted in law enforcement agents ignoring criminal or traffic infractions because of the offender's association with a fellow officer. In particular, this paper will examine the history, distribution, function, and public awareness of the membership card. Specific examples of the use of these cards as well as the largest issues associated with their existence will be examined. This paper will argue that the promotion and use of these cards by police associations is one of the largest and least studied threats to a democratic state.

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Updated 05/20/2006