I live in California, where I often see license plate frames carrying the words, “Lifetime Member, 11-99 Foundation.” The frames are usually on newer-model luxury cars. I finally got curious enough to look up what the 11-99 Foundation is. Here’s a paragraph from a 2008 Los Angeles Times article:

The foundation, based in Fullerton, draws its name from the emergency police radio code for “officer needs assistance.” It has taken in millions of dollars in tax-free donations for more than 25 years and used the money to aid families of CHP [California Highway Patrol] employees.

The Times article is titled, “Can drivers buy CHP leniency?”

Here are the opening four paragraphs of the LA Times story:

It was the kind of move that would usually mean a ticket for a young guy in a tricked-out BMW: unsafely zipping around a truck and another vehicle — which happened to be a CHP cruiser — while zooming down the road.

But rather than getting slapped with a fine last year on U.S. 101 south of San Francisco, Nick Palefsky was let go with a warning.

“He said, ‘Next time, be a little bit more cautious,’ ” Palefsky recounted in a recent interview. It was one of four occasions in the last three years in which Palefsky, 22, said he was stopped by California Highway Patrol or local police officers; only once did he receive a ticket.

Palefsky believes a license plate frame proclaiming membership in the California Highway Patrol 11-99 Foundation helped him avoid the tickets.

The reporter, Christian Berthelsen, appears to be a good reporter: he doesn’t draw conclusions that go beyond the evidence.

However, do a search on 11-99 Foundation and you’ll come up with evidence that some cops do show leniency. In an on-line forum discussion of fake 11-99 plates, for example, one member, apparently a southern California cop, who ends with this statement, “Everyone tires to work an angle, then they blame me for holding them accountable… It’s like I’m dealing with my teenagers all over again,” earlier made this statement: “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you, no love will be shown.” In other words, he admits that he will show leniency if the person with the frame is a bona fide payer.

One reason I find this interesting is that when I advocate private police and courts, people often respond with statements like “You want rich people to be able to buy their way out of legal problems.” Well, it appears that to some extent that happens now. It’s just that the prices are probably way higher when governments run the system.