WITB? Police Dept Courtesy Card

While the item about which I’m posting today has little genealogical value, it does shed light on “how things used to be” in Minneapolis. 


05-23-2014 04;27;41PMThis is yet another story answering the question “What’s in the box?” and describing family history items found in a metal box in our basement.

The card pictured on the left was among other pieces of paper in an envelope labelled “Patrick Hickey.”

As you know if you’ve been following this “WITB” series, Patrick was my husband’s grandfather. He was born in Minnesota in 1865 to Irish-born parents, worked as a Minneapolis fireman from 1900-1932, and died in 1940.

Patrick likely carried the card in his wallet until his death.

It is a Minneapolis Police Department courtesy card.  The front of the card says:

This is to certify that

Mr. Patrick Hickey

2627 Dupont Ave. No., Mpls.

is entitled to the courtesies of the City of Minneapolis

The card is dated 3 June 1937 and is signed by Thomas E. Latimer, Mayor of Minneapolis, and Frank P. Forestal, Superintendent of Police.

On the reverse is stamped the number “344” with this statement:

The holder thereof assumes all risks of accidents and expressly agrees to abide by all orders or instructions given to him by any police officer as may be in charge of the lines where the holder of this ticket is present.

In the old days, policemen routinely handed out courtesy cards to their family and friends. The wording on the back made no guarantees, but it was a “get-out-of-a-jam-free” card intended to use for minor infractions like a speeding ticket.

Patrick’s brother, William Hickey (1866-1947), was a long-time Minneapolis policeman who retired sometime during the 1930s. William very likely gave the courtesy card to his brother.

A similar card, albeit with no names or signatures, is currently listed for sale on e-bay for about $32. In the e-bay photo, the card looks very similar to the one pictured above although the number stamped on the back is “150” and it’s shown on e-bay as 1953 vintage.

I’ve been told courtesy cards haven’t been issued by Minneapolis policemen for many years. However, based on my Internet search, some police departments  (e.g., New York and Philadelphia) still hand them out. In New Jersey, they’re called PBA cards, which stands for Policemen’s Benevolent Association. As recently as May 2012, Kevin Manahan wrote an article for NJ.com entitled “PBA cards: Do they work, and should they?”  His conclusion after talking to many police officers: the courtesy card might still get you out of a ticket in those cities where they’re still in use.

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