An interesting detail emerged after a gray Chevy Cobalt hit two Baltimore police officers Wednesday and led dozens of patrol cars and a police helicopter on a chase: the state license plates affixed to the car started with "FPD" and carried a law-enforcement style, star-shaped insignia.
Baltimore police said the car was driven by Alycia Marie Hoffman, 25, a Bel Air woman with a lengthy arrest record, according to court records. She has no known law enforcement background and did not own the car.
Released through the Fraternal Order of Police Maryland State Lodge, the plates were issued to a retired
Only current and former law enforcement officers are permitted to own the FOP specialty plates — though the tags carry no special authority, Bartlett said.
"It's more of a fraternity thing," he said.
With the owner's permission, a family member or any legal driver can drive the car.
The plates are among the more than 800 organizational plates the state has sanctioned, said Buel C. Young, spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Other law enforcement organizations with plates sold in the state include Concerns of Police Survivors, Maryland Law Enforcement Officers, Inc.,
The state approves specialty plates for organizations through an application process that requires groups to be official nonprofits with at least 25 members who are registered drivers in Maryland. A state panel reviews the emblems. Once approved, groups are responsible for screening applicants under their own criteria. The Motor Vehicle Administration issues the plates.
The Maryland State Lodge FOP plates have been around since at least 1970, when the group's secretary, John Parker of
"Now when we see a 'FP' auto on the road, you will know it is a FOP member or his family," he said, according to a FOP web page documenting the state organization's history.
To join the FOP, its national constitution states that members must be full-time, sworn law enforcement officers. The national FOP leaves it to state chapters and individual lodges to decide any other membership requirements, as well as the requirements for retired officers.
According to the
The plates cannot be transferred, Bartlett said. If a person's FOP membership is terminated, the organization tells the state to not renew the specialty tags and to return the plates to the FOP, Bartlett said.