If you live in California you have probably seen one of these. No, not the Mercedes SL500, but the license plate frame which says 11-99 Foundation. The 11-99 foundation is a charitable organization which supports familes of California Highway Patrol employees. Primarily they help out in cases of sickness or death. This is a very good thing.
But the puzzling thing is the way they go about it. The license plate frame is an example. For a $1800 donation to the organization you get a license plate frame, a certificate and a wallet with a special 11-99 badge in it. The wallet has a place for your ID just opposite the badge. The perfect thing to hand to an officer who has just pulled you over.
Now, perhaps they don't intend to create the impression that this sort of prominent identification with the program is helpful in avoiding prosecution by the Highway Patrol, but the general public certainly thinks it is. For example:
"Well for those who don't believe in the CHP11-99 Foundation, this story will make you change your minds. In California, time around 3pm. ...I looked to my left for on coming traffic and didn't see anyone, so I pushed it from around 55mp to 100 in no time. All a sudden I see a front bumper next to my side door? I was in shock, then looked quickly and it was a black bumper with steel guards. Guess what it was a COP... He told me I was clocked at 102 ! I told him some Mustang was on my *** on 85 and I wanted to get him off my bumper. I gave him my CHP-1199 badge and membership card....He comes back and tells me he doesn't know what to do, 1. give me a ticket or 2. give me a warning. Well he gives me a warning and says goodbye"
So, when I see something like this on a fast car - and they are always on fast cars... it tells me something about the driver. Sometimes it means that they really care. But you can care in private right? Care without the badge and license plate frame? So my mind rejects that approach and assumes the worst. I really think they need a tagline. Something like:
- "My convenience is more important than your safety"
- "Nation of laws? That's for losers"
- "Money changes everything"
- "Buy a cop today"
Really, I don't know what else to think. Would tax cheats wear their fraudulent returns so proudly?
Update Aug 23, 2006: Carroll Shelby is a card carrying member: From an article in Globe and Mail Carroll expounds on the value of his 11-99 foundation badge:
"I got a few tickets, but I haven't got a lot of tickets in my lifetime. I'm a member of 11-99 [a charitable foundation]. I have a thing that gets you out of tickets that I carry in my briefcase.
"[The foundation gives] money, about $5-million [U.S.], away every year — to widows and orphans of highway patrol men killed in action. And unless we run over a kid in a school zone doing 40 to 50 miles an hour, they usually let us go if you've got that little card," says Shelby, who also started the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation to help kids in need of heart and kidney care."
Mail I've gotten from some CHP members says this sort of thing is a myth... but here it is again.
UPDATE: Dec 12, 2006 The CHP1199.org site has been redesigned and all reference to the membership program has been removed. For more information and a look at the old site I have a new article: http://zo-d.com/stuff/automotive/chp-1199-foundation-changing-its-stripes.html