If anyone thinks the rich have to follow the same rules as you and me, I say hahahahahahahahhahahahahaha. Ha to you.
I just heard from a reliable source about a rich acquaintance who recently got out of a speeding ticket using what is pejoratively known as a “get out of jail” card.
These speeding licenses are the stuff of urban legend, and no doubt there are many of you whose faith in the system leads you to believe that they and their magical power are a myth, a fabrication.
Please sit down and listen, because you stand to be corrected.
The rich guy in question was doing 85 on the freeway in his expensive automobile and got caught by the CHP. The acquaintance, riding in another car, saw him pulled over on the shoulder and laughed because it was funny.
The laughing stopped when the rich guy later told the acquaintance what had happened: He apologized to the officer and produced his ID. Adjacent to the ID, in plain sight, thanks to the convenient CHP-issued wallet, was his 11-99 “flatbadge.”
It identified him as a member of the 11-99 Foundation.
The 11-99 Foundation is a private charitable organization that donates money to a fund that provides monetary assistance to families of Highway Patrol officers, primarily in cases where officers have been injured, taken ill or died. The name 11-99 comes from the police code for an officer needing assistance. It's a good cause.
To get a “lifetime association” membership to the organization requires referrals and a background check. If you're a rich person who wants in, having a rich friend who's already in can help.
Until this year, donors were awarded for their $1,800 support with a license plate frame and brass flatbadge in a two-card-visible wallet that made it easy for anyone (i.e. highway patrolmen) to identify them as 11-99 members.
In the continuing saga of the rich guy, the officer handed back the ID and 11-99 flatbadge and said, “I'm giving you a warning. Thanks for supporting the Highway Patrol.”
The rich guy told the acquaintance that the 11-99 had worked for him several times before, but this was the first time an officer had so blatantly connected leniency with the bribe—er, I mean support. Call it what you will.
The blogonet is alive with chatter about the 11-99 issue. Some argue that the members' license frame alone will buy you favors, while others say you need to show the badge, too. Most anecdotes support the latter claim, and it seems likely, given that the black market for the frames was what led to the discontinuation of their issuance. If you can't show a badge, officers may wonder if you bought your frame on eBay.
In fact, the CHP website says they've tried to stop the sale of 11-99 frames on eBay, and I couldn't find any for sale there, but a simple Google search will find them selling for around $150 on various other sites. I don't know if they're authentic or knockoffs, but I'm also not sure how to calculate how much less ethical it is for an unmonied schlub to shell out $150 to avoid tickets than it is for a rich speed demon to buy the right to floor it for $1,800.
Now, I'm sure there are members of the 11-99 Foundation who donate out of the goodness of their hearts rather than the leadness of their feet. But if the CHP wanted to make a stronger attempt to demonstrate evenhandedness, their discontinuation of badges and cards, wisely enacted this year, should be backed up with a recall, if only to dispel the unsavory reputation 11-99 Foundation membership has earned—a real shame considering where the money goes.
Still, some CHP members claim that the 11-99 privilege is a myth. For example, an anonymous CHP officer writing on the “Stuff” blog says he has “cited folks with the 11-99 Foundation plate frame for unsafe driving” and that “the 11-99 program big-wigs actually come to the CHP Academy and tell the cadets to report anyone who attempts to use their 11-99 membership to get out of an enforcement action.”
Sad that they need to teach cadets to report attempted bribery. And how do you explain what happens to Rich Guy every time he gets pulled over?
The 11-99 Foundation's website reminds readers that the purpose of the foundation is “providing much-needed emergency and death Benefits and Scholarships to eligible CHP family members” and claims that “our donors know and honor this, but others may not.” Quite an unqualified statement, considering that there are donors who flagrantly admit that it's their “get out of jail free card.”
So, yes, it's good that the CHP allegedly stopped issuing the badges, wallets and frames to members. But what are they going to do about members who still have and flaunt their old frames and badges? Continue to let them slide, in thanks for their generous support of the CHP? Or start treating the rich just like the rest of us?
What the state should do is recall every single 11-99 badge and frame and make it illegal to possess them. It would demonstrate that the CHP is dead-serious about applying the law fairly. If this were done, I'm sure none of the donors would grumble about having their cards and frames taken away—because they're only donating out of compassionate concern for families in need. Right?
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