Inside the American Police

Hall of Fame and Museum: Morbid kitsch and money. Lots of money.

"Jenny was particularly upset -- she felt it was a commercialization of the tragedy," Wolman says. "She had no knowledge this was being done, absolutely did not authorize it and frankly did not want it done." The Maryland Attorney General's Office started to pursue the matter, but stopped after Arenberg complied with a cease-and-desist letter Wolman sent him.

Paul Scott Abbott dismisses the Wolf affair. "It was based upon unfounded complaints by a local FOP unit," he says, "as well as the efforts of Suzy Sawyer and her COPS group A whom, it should be noted, raised five million dollars and then spent just $5000 on scholarships: a mere one-tenth of one percent of what they collected. Perhaps your questions implying that money does not go to a good cause," the PR consultant advises, "should be directed at her."

As evidence of NACOP's superior services, Abbott cites the 81 scholarships, worth $500 apiece, the group has awarded since 1990 and the toys it distributes to orphaned children of police officers at Christmas. "Obviously there's [also] the memorializing of the name, rank, and department affiliation at the Hall of Fame," he adds. "And through various writings to departments and survivors, there's the placement and publication in local papers of stories about Peace Officers Memorial Day."

Responds Suzy Sawyer: "Yeah, that really meets the psychological needs of survivors." As to Abbott's assessment of her group's finances, she does acknowledge that after voluntarily submitting to a review by an outside watchdog agency in 1994, COPS was criticized for characterizing certain fundraising mailings as being partially "educational" in nature. But Abbott, Sawyer says, is being disingenuous: The scholarship figure he cites was low because 1993 was the first year the COPS board allocated any money for scholarships.

According to a recent audit commissioned by COPS, in 1994 the group raised $2.99 million and spent $2.94 million. Of that, nearly $1.2 million went to programs: grief seminars; peer support and benefits assistance; educational materials and awareness campaigns; police department assistance; awards, grants, and scholarships; and children's counseling.

Total management costs and general expenses came to just under $700,000 for the year. The group also spent more than one million dollars in fundraising. At first blush, this doesn't seem great: COPS shelled out 52 percent of its money to raise the other 48 percent. But 1994 was the first year COPS commissioned a professional fundraiser; according to the Better Business Bureau, it usually takes several years for a new charity's fundraising-to-service ratio to improve.

"If you're hiring an outside fundraiser for the first time, it's not at all unusual to experience higher than usual fundraising costs," says the BBB's Bennett Weiner. This, Weiner says, also highlights an important caveat when it comes to nonprofits: The fundraising/management vs. program services ratio isn't enough to go on when determining a nonprofit's effectiveness. It can come down to a matter of semantics, and depending upon how expenditures are itemized, a group that reports a low overall outlay for "program services" might actually be spending more hard cash on specific programs (or spending the money more wisely) than a group that shows a higher overall percentage.

NACOP's and AFP's itemizations would seem to illustrate Weiner's warning.
NACOP's most recent available 990 form indicates that for fiscal year 1993, the organization spent $1.5 million, a few thousand dollars more than it raised. With $530,000 going to fundraising, $160,000 to management and general expenses, and the rest to "program services," NACOP would appear to have spent only 45 percent of its intake on fundraising.

The term "program services," however, appears to be misleading. Of the $851,728 not spent on fundraising and management, $335,924 went to distribution of "educational material," which includes the costs of producing a bimonthly magazine called Chief of Police; $46,896 was spent on the museum; $15,550 was paid to a Washington, D.C., consultant; and a $391,118 "management fee" was paid to American Fraternal Programmers. Of the money that remained, $43,226 was spent on awards to police officers and $19,014 on "other program services A such as scholarship grants, etc."

AFP's 1993 990 return is at least as revealing.
That year, about $3.65 million was raised, while expenses ran to $5.15 million. More than two million dollars was paid to fundraisers, while an additional $267,000 covered general expenses.

Of the $2.8 million spent on "program services," nearly $900,000 went into producing the twenty-page Police Times newspaper (which, along with short articles about awards and court decisions, is chock full of ads for merchandise and mail-order medals sold by Arenberg's groups). About $25,000 was spent on the museum, and another $15,000 on "membership kits" including "badges, emblems, and other materials." Awards presented to cops "for valor and service" accounted for $8000. In its role as an educational organization, AFP indicated, $22,250 was spent on "training seminars and conferences that are given periodically." Another $45,000 went to "assistance to children of officers killed in the line of duty . . . and other miscellaneous program services," according to the group's federal disclosure form.

The single largest expenditure listed under "program services": A $1,784,686 "service fee" to American Fraternal Programmers.

According to its articles of incorporation, AFP exists "to promote the training of police reserves . . . [and] to assist family members of slain police officers through programs of compassion, scholarship and gifts, [and] to educate members of the general public about the contribution throughout history by law enforcement personnel."

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