Inside the American Police
Most people never look past the gravity-defying police car. The one stuck, Spiderman-like, high on the faaade of the three-story building on the northeast corner of Biscayne Boulevard and 38th Street. Tens of thousands drive past it every day, their expressions betraying varying reactions -- amusement, puzzlement, vague contempt. But as the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum recedes in the rear-view, so for the most part does the urge to explore it.
Those who do venture inside are treated to an encounter with a RoboCop mannequin, who, despite his menacing appearance, incessantly utters a cheery "RoboCop would like to welcome you to the Police Hall of Fame. Please take your time and enjoy your visit." A tour of the museum affords "educational" stops at the electric chair exhibit (where visitors are invited to strap themselves in and hook up the electrodes) and the heady environs of the replica of San Quentin's gas chamber ("Take your time and enjoy yourself"), not to mention a few moments' gawking at the bullet-riddled, bloodstained section of wall dubbed the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre Exhibit." And a gander at the replica jail cell, stocks, and other punishment paraphernalia, including a cousin of the cane that whacked Michael Fay's posterior in Singapore.
And, finally, a hushed sojourn at the Memorial, a high-ceiling room where taped organ music plays eerily, the name of every American cop slain since 1960 is affixed to the marble walls, and a sarcophagus centerpiece bears the inscription "To the unknown peace officer, known only to God."
Of course, in the flower-draped Tomb of the Unknown Peace Officer, there's no body. Still, as a paean to tackiness and kitsch, the Hall is worth the six-dollar admission charge (three dollars for kids; just a buck for police officers, active or retired).
But its operators have higher aspirations. Directors of a network of tax-exempt nonprofit groups that have raised more than $15 million since 1990, they portray the Police Hall of Fame as a mecca for American cops, sacred ground where blue knights can pay homage to their fallen colleagues and revel in the spirit of public order.
In that endeavor, the institution's success is arguable. Law enforcement officers, leaders of professional police groups, and experts in charity fundraising have raised myriad criticisms. They say the Hall, much like the plastic Eternal Flame that glows Halloween-orange on the tiny patch of grass out front, is a hollow promise. Visitors, for one thing, aren't informed of the existence of another shrine to fallen cops in Washington, D.C., which is jointly maintained by a dozen police groups and open to the public, free of charge. Nor are they explicitly told that millions of dollars raised by the nonprofits that run the Hall are funneled not to worthy causes but to contracted fundraisers and a for-profit management company created by the charities' founder, Gerald Arenberg.
Through his public relations consultant, Paul Scott Abbott, Gerald Arenberg declined to be interviewed for this story. Abbott says that his client, now "retired from all paid positions" at age 65, could not respond to any questions directly, owing to what the consultant says is a painful degenerative nerve condition. "He has bad days and worse days. He's not doing well," the consultant explains.
The American Police Hall of Fame and Museum is jointly owned by two nonprofit groups, the American Federation of Police (AFP) and the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP), both of which Arenberg founded and ran as executive vice president. Arenberg began his law enforcement career in 1950, as a deputy in the Cook County, Illinois, sheriff's department. After a four-year stint there, he moved to the tiny Chicago suburb of Golf, where he eventually became chief of the three-man police department. One day in 1955, he was directing traffic when a drunk driver slammed into him at 50 miles per hour. According to Abbott, Arenberg spent many painful months in a body cast; later, ambulatory but on crutches, the idea came to him to build a shrine to police officers.
At the time, Arenberg was working at the offices of the National Police Officers Association of America (NPOAA), an organization he had co-founded in 1955 with a Chicago detective named Frank Schira. By 1961 NPOAA was growing into a full-time venture. After Chief Arenberg was named executive secretary that same year, he turned in his shield and moved to Venice, Florida, to open a national headquarters for the group. Still determined to build his shrine, he persuaded the General Development Corporation to donate land for the project in exchange for an NPOAA endorsement of a GDC housing development.
Abbott says Arenberg left NPOAA and relocated to Miami in 1966 "following a change in management." While the PR consultant does not elaborate about what prompted the change, newspaper stories at that time indicate that the NPOAA had come under fire from other police groups for selling emblems and insignia that could easily be mistaken for official police gear. Arenberg, the NPOAA's board reportedly ascertained, was catering to police groupies just to raise money. So they fired him, with the full support of his onetime partner, Frank Schira.
"We're an organization of full-time policemen, and we don't like the image we got from some of what Jerry did," Schira later told the Los Angeles Times. "We got rid of all that when we got rid of Jerry and most of the people who worked with him."
Adding to his discomfort, Schira told the Times, was Arenberg's creation of two other institutions, the U.S. Federation of Police and the International Association of Auxiliary Police. Undaunted by his dismissal, Arenberg merged those groups into one new organization, the American Federation of Police. In 1967, continuing his quest for a shrine, he incorporated the National Police Museum, Inc.
Two years later, on page one of the Los Angeles Times, the paper's then-Atlanta correspondent Jack Nelson penned a scathing report about Arenberg. Portraying the ex-cop as a transplanted flatlander with delusions of grandeur, Nelson wrote that Arenberg operated out of plush Miami offices, drove around in a new Lincoln, and squired guests about town in an AFP limo equipped with a phone. He also revealed that Arenberg was engaged in a transparent money-making scheme: He was running a diploma mill.
At the time, Nelson recalls, several national commissions had published reports calling for higher police educational and training standards. And with cops everywhere anxious for ways to achieve academic respectability, Arenberg was making a tempting offer. "The AFP was a really sleazy outfit," says Nelson, now the Times's Washington bureau chief. "They had this thing, the National Law Enforcement Academy. They were giving out phony degrees all over the country. You'd pay some money, do some token course work, and be presented with this thing that was represented as some sort of great academic achievement. It was just bogus."
Arenberg, despite his own lack of a college degree, was signing diplomas as "Dean Gerald Arenberg," Nelson reported. His co-signers were "Lt. Derrick B. Van Brode IV," the academy's "chancellor," and "Dr. Louis Wawrzyniak, chairman of the Academic Evaluation Committee."
Nelson discovered that like Arenberg, Van Brode had no college degree; not only that, he didn't hold the rank of lieutenant in any known police department. The reporter also found that Wawrzyniak, a rookie cop and AFP member in Whiting, Indiana, wasn't a doctor at all; he had, in fact, never even graduated from high school.
Paul Scott Abbott, Arenberg's PR consultant, declines to address the subject directly. "Arenberg has some difficulty recalling details of events of more than 25 years ago, but he does recall that Wawrzyniak presented credentials impressive enough to have fooled the U.S. Army, the State of Indiana, and others," is his only comment. Wawrzyniak, however, told Nelson that he never spoke with Arenberg about credentials, and that he had no idea "Dean" Arenberg wasn't a college graduate, either.
It was Jack Nelson's view that Arenberg was capitalizing on fear of crime and civic unrest, "exploiting the law-and-order issue," as the reporter wrote in his 1969 article. Even as the story was being picked up by the wire services and receiving national attention, Arenberg's influence was growing. He had begun publishing a twice-monthly newspaper, the Police Times, and he made sure reporters and government officials got copies of it. He also made sure people noticed when he presented awards to police officers and legislators, and he came to be viewed as a respected spokesman for law enforcement; over the years, he has been quoted as an authoritative source in hundreds of articles in a vast range of publications. Only three years after its founding, national figures from both political parties were heaping praise on AFP. Then-senator John Tower, a Republican from Texas, referred to it as a "distinguished association."
During the Seventies and Eighties, Arenberg and three associates -- Derrick Van Brode IV, Donna Shepherd, and Debbie Chitwood -- incorporated a slew of groups. Among them: the International Academy of Criminology, the American Police Academy, the Florida Crime Prevention Commission, the American Police Reserves, the Florida Union of Security Employees, the Armed Forces Military and Veterans Association, the National Association of Park Rangers, and the Venerable Order of Michael the Archangel. All were eventually granted tax-exempt status; several are still in existence.
In 1976, Arenberg and Van Brode created a for-profit corporation called American Fraternal Programmers, Inc., whose stated purpose was to "provide comprehensive management of day-to-day activities of fraternal, educational, scientific, and charitable organizations."
The only organizations managed by American Fraternal Programmers, Inc., however, are the ones run by Arenberg and his associates. In 1989 Arenberg and Van Brode relinquished ownership of the corporation to NACOP and AFP. While it's not unheard-of for nonprofit groups to have for-profit subsidiaries, according to the Better Business Bureau's Philanthropic Advisory Service, it is both unusual and troubling -- albeit legal -- that the directors of a for-profit group also direct the nonprofits.
"There's nothing wrong with hiring a management company, but the question is, how do you decide who to hire, and is the decision made objectively? And in this case, these people have a financial connection if they're involved with the for-profit entity," says Bennett Weiner, vice president of the Philanthropic Advisory Service.
Such issues, Weiner says, are an important part of his bureau's review process, though no review has been undertaken of NACOP and AFP. In the past two years, via certified mail, Weiner has sent requests for financial information to both groups. He has never received a reply.
"We see no need to expend organization funds redundantly furnishing additional private entities with information already contained in registrations duly filed with each state in which there are programs," explains PR consultant Paul Scott Abbott.
Federal law does require that nonprofits file annual tax returns, known as 990s, that detail all revenues and expenses. The forms are public record, and a nonprofit group must make available for public perusal copies of its past three filings.
AFP and NACOP's 990s from fiscal years 1990 through 1993 indicate that Arenberg, Van Brode, Chitwood, and Shepherd have never claimed any compensation as AFP/NACOP directors and officers. However, the same 990 forms show that during the same time period, American Fraternal Programmers received nearly four million dollars in "service fees" from the combined coffers of NACOP and AFP. And because American Fraternal Programmers is a privately held, for-profit corporation, it has no obligation to publicly disclose how it spends the money it takes in -- or how much its officers and directors are paid.
Abbott declined to provide New Times with any financial statements for American Fraternal Programmers. He does say, however, that last year the company had a total of 36 employees "drawing a total of $517,451 in wages," and that "based upon the average of 28 employees per quarter, the average wage was less than $18,500." Where the rest of the money goes, Abbott didn't specify. (Abbott also provided a Social Security Administration document showing Arenberg's lifetime earnings record. According to the figures, it wasn't until 1982 that Arenberg cleared $30,000 in salary, and he never drew more than $60,000 in a year. The document, however, shows only earnings, and thus excludes nontaxable fringe benefits, payments to qualified pension plans, or other deferred compensation.)
"There doesn't seem to be any question that Arenberg is personally benefiting from this whole arrangement," says a lawyer in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office who requested anonymity. Last year Pennsylvania fined AFP for using unregistered fundraisers. "We've taken him apart and looked at him in detail," the lawyer says. "He's got a for-profit company that's providing 'services' to his nonprofits, and his and others' salaries, which could be in six figures, are being funneled through this management company."
That in itself is not illegal, says the attorney. "In a case like this, the only way for us to make an issue of it would be to show he's saying one thing on solicitations and then prove that absolutely none of the money is going to what he's saying. As long as some of it goes to the cause he represents, there really isn't anything we can do."
It's a dreary autumn afternoon, but inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, at a booth toward the north end of the mezzanine, the mood is bright. On this, the second day of the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Suzy Sawyer, the burly, gregarious wife of a retired Maryland cop, continually bounds from her booth to greet old friends. Michael Kelly, chief of the Lewiston, Maine, police department, stops by to offer thanks. Chief Cel Rivera from Lorain, Ohio, asks Sawyer for technical advice. Terence McCardle, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent in charge for Boston, gives her a big hug, while a bevy of other chiefs cluster around the table reviewing brochures and waiting for a chance to talk to "the angel," as one thief refers to Sawyer.
She is the founder of COPS, or Concerns of Police Survivors. The group dates back to 1983, when, while attending National Peace Officers Memorial Day events in Washington, D.C., Sawyer noticed that police widows seemed to be a forgotten group. A year later, after Sawyer had taken it upon herself to lay the foundation, 110 survivors formally founded the organization in order to address what they saw as a neglected facet of police life: counseling and aid to survivors of slain officers.
COPS now has chapters in nineteen states, including Florida. It has five paid employees, whose salaries range from $14,600 to $47,106. About a half-dozen times a year, the organization holds free grief seminars for survivors. It also provides free counseling to children of slain officers, has established a national peer-support group, and helps departments craft line-of-duty-death manuals. Earlier this year, COPS held its first weeklong grief camp, operated free of charge and staffed by survivors and professional counselors.
Jenny Wolf is among the survivors COPS has aided; her husband Ted, a Maryland state trooper, was shot and killed in 1991 during what began as a routine traffic stop. According to Ben Wolman, a Maryland Fraternal Order of Police attorney, Ted's death was hard enough for Jenny to deal with. Her grief was compounded, says Wolman, by the American Federation of Police.
After Ted Wolf's murder, local merchants began receiving calls from telemarketers, asking them to buy ads in the Police Times. Part of the payment would go to Trooper Wolf's family, the solicitors said.
"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."
As to how AFP's spending achieves those purposes, Abbott asserts that with 55 percent of all expenditures going to "program services," the group "compares quite favorably with many widely recognized charitable organizations and has been commended by media and others." He mentions Police Times and other published materials as "an important part of AFP [educational] programs." As an example, he cites a publication called Take the Law into Your Own Hands Legally, noting that it was acknowledged with a letter of appreciation from Judge Lance A. Ito. (In his letter, Ito stated he had not yet read the book.) As for training expenditures, Abbott points out, "[AFP's] Private Security Officer Training School [has] trained more than 10,000 security officers since it began offering state-sanctioned training in 1990." He would not comment about how spending money to train private security officers qualifies as a service to AFP's members and donors.
Finally, Abbott says that according to AFP's internal audit, the group paid American Fraternal Programmers "exactly $368,532.78 for the period of July 1, 1993 through June 30, 1994" -- and not the $1,784,686 listed on the 990 form, which covers the same time period. He suggests the disparity may be due to "incorrectly reading and/or interpreting the material" on the part of New Times.
Concerned about what he terms "scurrilous criticism" that has been leveled at his boss, Abbott calls Arenberg a crusader "against tyranny, injustice, and public corruption.
"I pray you will look hard and find the truth and in this, perhaps the final story to be written about Arenberg before he leaves behind the Hall of Fame and all his good deeds as legacies, you portray him not as the sinner his persecutors contend he is," implores the PR consultant, "but rather as the saint many of us who know him well believe he more truly is."
At the mention of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Dan Rosenblatt lets out an exasperated sigh. "We get people calling here complaining about them all the time," he says. "I get regular calls from citizens who are outraged that they get a telemarketing call from 'our' representative. I have to tell them we don't do that."
Rosenblatt is executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of the nation's oldest and largest organization of police executives, Rosenblatt is often called upon to perform another task: telling irate citizens that it's Arenberg's group, not his, that's hitting them up for cash. The confusion has become so pronounced, in fact, that since 1987, IACP has produced for public consumption three reports detailing the financial activities of Arenberg's various organizations.
Founded in 1893 for the purpose of pooling resources and strengthening ties between police departments, the 13,000-member IACP is no slouch: Its criminal data files were the basis for the FBI's Identification and Uniform Crime Reports Divisions. The FBI also adopted IACP's bomb data center. The group has lobbied for higher mandatory police training standards and was instrumental in establishing the National Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation.
About ten times a month, from big cities to spots far off the beaten track, the IACP holds a training seminar on some aspect of policing. Eschewing phone and mail solicitations, the group takes a more restrained approach to fundraising, acquiring its money from membership dues, conference registration and exhibition fees, payments for training programs, and a few federal grants. It has 30 standing committees, as well as research, information, and psychological-services divisions, and a section devoted to helping individual departments write promotion exams.
NACOP, on the other hand, was originally incorporated by Gerald Arenberg in 1967 as the National Police Museum, Inc. For 15 years subsequently, it was known as the International Academy of Criminology, and then, in 1982, was given its current moniker. Although it claims a membership of 11,000, unlike the IACP it will not release a specific list of members, nor will it specify the subjects and locations of the "60 training seminars" Paul Scott Abbott says NACOP offers on an annual basis.
Most of the names on NACOP's letterhead are not preceded by the word "Chief." The group's president, Dennis Ray Martin, is a rural deputy sheriff who has a part-time job as chief (and sole officer) of the police department in Albee-Maple Grove Township, Michigan. The executive vice president, Morton Feldman, was dismissed as a lieutenant from the Broward County Sheriff's Office in 1993 for conduct unbecoming an officer.
But then, according to NACOP's statement of purpose A which, as required by law, is on file with the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services A the group doesn't really have that much to do with police chiefs. NACOP's purpose, says the filing, is to "engage in direct mail or telemarketing contacts to make citizens aware of the problems that face the modern law enforcement officer, the toll in deaths and injuries, and the work of the American Police Hall of Fame."
Every year NACOP does issue a report regarding police deaths in the line of duty. Not surprisingly, the majority are killed by criminals armed with guns. Though this might lead one to believe the group would favor some form of gun control, precisely the opposite is true: NACOP and AFP are among the scant few law enforcement associations that support the pro-gun lobby.
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.
Indeed, in a museum filled with vivid antidrug exhibits and other displays betraying a predilection for capital and corporal punishment, some of the celebrity advisers seem odd choices. A photo of noted ex-heroin junkie Keith Richards hangs on the wall. Martin Sheen, who's always happy to be arrested for a good liberal cause, sends his best wishes. And even though the Police Times berates him for supporting condemned-to-death Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, there's M*A*S*H alum Mike Farrell.
On your way out of the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum, for an extra $1.50 you can pick up the latest issue of Police Times and do a little shopping. Pay $35 for a J. Edgar Hoover Distinguished Service Medal. For $10.50, a "Fellow of the Police Academy Certificate" is yours. A $65 outlay buys a home-study course from the American Police Academy in "Basic Marksmanship with the Modern Handgun." Or pitch in $695 for a weeklong cruise.
Those offerings, and everything else you see around you, compose the legacy of Gerald Arenberg. If he isn't a saint, he has a lot going for him: Saints, after all, have to die, and then usually wait centuries for a shrine. Arenberg has his today. And as long as someone is willing to pay six bucks for a walk-through, he'll never be forgotten.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.