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More on those police “charities”

Nice story in the Statesman about those law enforcement charities that call you for donations.

The first time he got the call last year, Rodney Shaheen thought one of his children had been in a bad car crash.

The name on his phone said “TX State Troop,” and the caller claimed he was a state trooper, Shaheen later told the state in a written complaint.

But the call wasn’t from any official police department, and it wasn’t about an accident. It was a request for money — a chance to help troopers and the loved ones of fallen officers, Shaheen recalled.

“The caller … (said) that 100 percent of what I donated would go to the families of officers killed in the line of duty,” he wrote.

Soon after, he heard a public service radio announcement from the Texas Department of Public Safety warning against giving to organizations over the phone “so I knew it was a scam,” Shaheen wrote in the complaint — one of many like it in recent years. The attorney general in December sued the Texas Highway Patrol Association, the group that called Shaheen, contending that it defrauded donors and that officials used contributions for personal reasons — an allegation they deny.

Driven almost entirely by telephone solicitations generally outsourced to professional fundraising companies, charitable giving to organizations representing or claiming to represent law enforcement officers is a multimillion dollar operation in Texas. In 2009 alone — the most recent year with complete data — three of the largest among more than 20 law enforcement organizations using telephone solicitations in the state reported annual proceeds of nearly $7 million total, much of it from phone donations.

The industry often plays on the public’s sympathy for the work of officers in maintaining law and order, sometimes using names that sound like official law enforcement agencies to raise money for emotional causes such as the families of fallen officers. Yet in many cases, the nonprofits using phone solicitors to raise money for police causes are actually professional law enforcement associations or labor unions, and the vast majority of donations can go to pay the private telemarketing companies.

Supporters say there are many legitimate organizations that raise money for worthy law enforcement causes and that do not pay large amounts to professional fundraisers. But critics point out that even those organizations that use telemarketers to raise money for direct donations to officers may be asking the public to support a cause that is already well-funded by taxpayers.

See here and here for more. Reading this story reminds me of a time about 20 years ago when I got on the call list for one or more of these groups. I made a donation the first time, and it seemed like I got called every couple of months after that for years asking for more. Which I didn’t give, because I was fresh out of grad school and still not exactly living large, not to mention the fact that it became obnoxious real fast. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. Via Grits

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