Inside the American Police

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

Over the years, NACOP has released polls purporting to show that cops don't support gun restrictions -- despite the fact that every mainstream U.S. police group favors them. But perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise: NACOP's Washington, D.C.-based vice president for public relations is John M. Snyder, who is also executive director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, a militant Second Amendment group.

All of which contributes to why Dan Rosenblatt chafes when he reads stories that quote anyone affiliated with NACOP. He is especially irked by NACOP's phone and mail fundraising operations, which he considers exploitative.

It isn't that he considers his organization above reproach; an ex-Department of Justice lawyer, Rosenblatt was asked to take over IACP and straighten out its administrative operations in 1986, after a minor financial scandal in the organization.

"In the early Eighties, several IACP staff members had misused a federal grant, and a few years ago, one of our board members, the Virginia secretary of public safety, resigned on account of improper gift taking from a Japanese businessman," Rosenblatt explains. Other associations, he adds, have made fiscal faux pas: "There are FOP chapters that have learned the hard way that certain ways of fundraising don't work too well for the people you're trying to raise money for."

But from Rosenblatt's point of view, NACOP and AFP are in a league unto themselves, with phone solicitations and invective-laced direct mailings he feels are manipulative and misleading. "Usually the letters or calls refer to the local 'council' of AFP or NACOP, which insinuates that the money will be staying local or going to the local department," says the IACP director. "This has annoyed a lot of chiefs, to put it mildly."

Jim Murray, for example, the police chief in Peachtree City, Georgia. Murray was irked in 1993 when he learned AFP telemarketers were saying his department was supportive of its fundraising efforts for "widows-and-orphans funds." He called Gerald Arenberg and asked him to amend his phone pitches. Six months later, when the AFP fundraisers repeated the performance, Murray was furious, and told a local newspaper he considered it "the lowest form of degradation to use a dead police officer's kids to make money."

In Putnam Valley, New York, last year, Chief William Carlos issued a press release denouncing the AFP's Police Family Survivors Fund as "but one of many fundraising schemes by many companies owned by Gerald Arenberg," and encouraged citizens to donate to COPS.

And late last year, Spokane, Washington's police chief hit the ceiling when a citizen sent him money along with a NACOP mailing. "It was reasonable for a person receiving that letter to conclude the money would be going to the Spokane police, and here [that implication] is illegal," says David Horn of the Washington Attorney General's Office, which is suing NACOP and its contractors for violation of the state's charitable solicitations act.

Abbott says NACOP is cooperating with Washington authorities, and he blames such incidents on overzealous contractors over whom NACOP has no direct control. Characterizing NACOP's and AFP's telemarketing strategy as generally "highly ethical," Abbott maintains that solicitors use no "slimy phone tactics" and concentrate instead on mailing their messages.

But Gerald Arenberg's fellow police chiefs don't seem to care much for the mailed messages, either. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Chiefs of Police Association blasted NACOP for attempting to capitalize on the O.J. Simpson trial after citizens received a fundraising letter signed by Arenberg's successor, Lt. Morton Feldman. The letter, which deemed Mark Fuhrman a "genuine American police hero," included the following reply card:

"Dear Lt. Feldman: You're right. That slick defense attorneys become filthy rich by degrading good cops like Det. Mark Fuhrman is absolutely disgusting. To show Detective Fuhrman and all other police heroes in America I care, I am sending you my signed letter of support to Mark Fuhrman along with my major tax-deductible gift."

According to Abbott, the letter was written in March and sent out in April, long before the Fuhrman tapes hit the news. But, he admits, "I think the organization would have preferred that letter had not gone out." In an upcoming issue of Chief of Police magazine, he promises, Feldman will write about "what a disgrace Mark Fuhrman is to law enforcement."

Another NACOP appeal, this one received by residents of South Bend, Indiana, pushed O.J. hot buttons, as well.

"One hundred fifty-seven men and women were killed protecting you and your family from exactly the kind of scum that these . . . filthy rich, overpaid . . . defense lawyers earn thousands of dollars for sending back to your neighborhood," Feldman rants. "How can these slick, high-powered defense lawyers go on national TV and tell you with a straight face that Simpson has been framed by a vengeful, racist police force? . . . The answer is that these $4000-a-day lawyers don't really care about you or your family's safety."

Apparently, though, there's a place in Feldman's heart for some high-priced defense lawyers. A photo gallery at the Hall of Fame depicts well over a hundred celebrities A among them Loretta Swit, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Danson, Lindsay Wagner, Don Rickles, William Shatner (appropriately decked out in T.J. Hooker garb), and Big Bird A who are members of the organization's Citizens Celebrity Advisory Board. "Their names alone are worth millions to the museum," notes an explanatory sign. And listed in a brochure that features the names of selected board members is none other than F. Lee Bailey.

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