Police-supply firms give big to museum project in D.C.









Sunday, November 13, 2011 --

WASHINGTON – The list of the most generous donors to the planned $80 million National Law Enforcement Museum is packed with corporate powerhouses — Motorola, DuPont, Verizon and Panasonic, among others.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

The National Law Enforcement Museum is shown in an artist’s rendering.

The companies or their related foundations have poured millions of dollars into developing the new attraction, set to open here in late 2013. For their generosity — Motorola and DuPont each contributed at least $3 million — museum officials have bestowed glowing honorary titles on the companies and the right to affix their names on exhibits throughout the building.

Besides being the museum’s largest contributors, some of the companies share another affiliation: They are the recipients of millions of dollars in contracts from law enforcement agencies across the nation. The companies provide cops with everything from guns and body armor to cellphones and computer software.

Since it was authorized by Congress in 2000, the museum project has become the centerpiece of a lucrative relationship in which public safety companies have aligned themselves with virtually every aspect of law enforcement.

They are ubiquitous sponsors of national and local policing conferences that draw chiefs and other key department purchasing officers. They sponsor events that raise money for local scholarship funds. And they shower money on families of officers killed while working for the agencies whose business the companies seek.

There is nothing illegal about the contributions, nor is there any indication that police agencies have purchased inferior equipment based on these financial relationships.

Some, including national Police Foundation President Hubert Williams, a member of the museum board, say there has never been a suggestion that corporate charity amounted to a “quid pro quo,” or an obligation to do business with major donors.

“Corporate America contributes to a variety of different causes in law enforcement,” Williams says. “But it doesn’t commit them to doing business.”

Even so, the millions in donations, sponsorships and pledges are part of a vast money stream that — largely because it operates outside of elective politics — churns on mostly unnoticed throughout the public safety industry, some law enforcement analysts say.

“If I’m a company that sells millions of dollars in law enforcement equipment, the possibility of using charitable donations to support the interest of business is something that people should think about,” says David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who has written extensively on law enforcement operations and ethics.

“The question is this: Are companies doing this out self-interest, to get a better hearing when it comes to selling a new product? You see this in a number of industries, but what’s different here is that (public safety) involves public, taxpayer money. You want to make sure that there are appropriate safeguards in place.”

While donating $2 million to the museum last month, Glock, a leading provider of firearms to police agencies, offered a less-than-subtle reminder of its public safety business interests.

“Glock,” Vice President Gary Fletcher said in the company’s donation announcement, “continues to provide over 65% of law enforcement agencies in the United States with the confidence to know that when they draw their weapon, it is ready to be fired.”

“Anybody trying to promote their brand is looking for a way to promote goodwill,” says William Weber, vice president of DuPont Protection Technologies, which provides bullet-resistant vests and other equipment to public safety agencies through its Kevlar products.

Weber, appointed to the museum’s 19-member managing board in September along with executives from Target and Motorola, says DuPont is careful to keep its business decisions with law enforcement separate from its philanthropy. But he says there is “no doubt ” the charitable donations assist in “furthering the brand.”

Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is building the museum, says there has “never been any concern” that such corporate support could create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Yet Floyd also acknowledged a basic truth related to the corporate involvement: “We are very limited in what we can accomplish without corporate America,” he said. “There is no way in the world we could build a museum without corporate America, short of Bill Gates writing us a check.”

Cozy ties between vendors, police

For years, corporate vendors and police agencies have enjoyed comfortable relationships.

In 2005, a USA TODAY review found that hundreds of police officers were on the payrolls of companies that supplied equipment to departments across the nation, including their own departments.

The companies included Armor Holdings, a maker of protective equipment; ASP, a police baton manufacturer; PepperBall Technologies, a supplier of non-lethal weapon products; and Taser International, the nation’s leading maker of stun guns.

For the most part, the firms were paying the officers to train other police to use the companies’ products.

Joseph Estey, then-president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and chief of the Hartford (Vt.) Police Department, says such arrangements represent “a kind of minefield” for police officials.

Estey, now a consultant for iXP, a security services and technology company whose clients include municipal police departments, says dealings between vendors and public safety agencies should be “clear.”

“You have to be very careful, even when you take somebody you know to lunch, that you can’t be perceived as trying to sway things,” Estey says. “I have to be very careful.”

The annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) may represent one of the most open displays of warmth between corporate vendors and public safety agencies.

Each year, the conference draws thousands of law enforcement officials for several days of networking, professional development and exposure to a vast exhibit hall filled with vendors hawking everything from gun belts to helicopters.

There also are corporate-sponsored receptions, entertainment outings and dinners. At this year’s conference held last month in Chicago, delegates could pay $40 for a motorcycle ride and tour of The Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

The next day, delegates were invited to participate in a golf tournament at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club for a $160 fee.

Both events were sponsored by Motorola Solutions to benefit the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. Lockheed Martin, a supplier of public safety communications systems, was the headline sponsor for the IACP Foundation’s Gala dinner at the Chicago Hilton.

Outgoing IACP Executive Director Dan Rosenblatt says the group is “very comfortable” with its relationship with corporate sponsors, who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the IACP Foundation.

The foundation funds training for police executives and provides scholarships to dependents of officers disabled or killed in the line of duty.

Rosenblatt says the group’s dealings with sponsors and vendors are “transparent,” and that there is a “prohibition against commercial endorsements” of products and services.

‘No expectation of a benefit’

Brian Kingshott, a criminal justice professor at Grand Valley State University and adviser to the Center on Law Enforcement Ethics, says the sponsorships and charitable contributions are “all about bolstering (the companies’) public images.”

“It’s just wrapped up in a different way,” Kingshott says. “The agenda is increased sales.”

Chuck Wexler is executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), whose studies on violent crime, immigration enforcement, gun crime and the impact of the faltering economy on law enforcement have been funded by the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Wexler says the communications giant has not had any involvement in the research or issues related to it.

PERF’s research findings have been cited extensively by USA TODAY and other national news organizations.

“If there are strings attached,” Wexler says, “we don’t do it. Period. People know us and wouldn’t ask us to compromise our independence and our reputation.”

Matt Blakely, director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation (the company’s philanthropic arm), which provided $3.2 million to public safety interests last year, says the foundation’s work has no connection to the company’s business and marketing efforts.

Blakely says donations to the museum and funding for things such as PERF’s “Critical Issues in Policing Series” is “pure charitable giving.”

“We have no expectation of a benefit,” he says.

Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, says there are “genuine motives” related to the giving, especially involving companies such as Motorola that have a long history in the public safety industry.

“A large part of it, though, is building goodwill for the business,” he says, adding that the “payoff” may not approach the amount of the donation.

Depending on corporate donations

When it is completed in late 2013 or early 2014, the National Law Enforcement Museum will be the first national museum dedicated to the history of policing in the United States.

Floyd, the main fundraising force behind the project, calls it “a gift of appreciation from the American people to law enforcement.”

So far, though, nearly half of the money raised for the project — $13.8 million — has come from 93 corporate donors. Another $14.8 million has been raised by 1,042 law enforcement organizations. Although the project was authorized by Congress as a national museum, funding is dependent on private donations.

Up to $18 million more is needed in the fundraising effort; Floyd says he expects and needs corporations to carry much of that load.

“Corporate America has to come on in a big way,” he says.

Although Floyd said it has been “made clear” that corporate sponsors would have no influence on the museum’s content, representatives of three major donors — DuPont, Motorola and Target — were added to the museum’s 19-member managing board in September.

The expansion marked the first time that corporate representatives cracked the National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Floyd said the board was expanded to take advantage of unique “resources and wisdom,” not to impose corporate influence on the museum’s content.

Hours after speaking with USA TODAY, Floyd sent a memo to the entire board, alerting them to the newspaper’s inquiries about the “appropriateness of sponsorship … by companies that have a business interest in law enforcement.”

A copy of the memo, which contained a detailed set of talking points for board members, was obtained by USA TODAY.

“Companies that do business with law enforcement have a much better appreciation for the value of law enforcement in our society, and understand the importance of honoring the service and sacrifice of our officers with a national memorial and museum,” Floyd advised in the Oct. 7 memo.

“This is not of any real concern,” he said the of fundraising questions. “(If anything, should focus some national attention on the museum project and the many corporate sponsors who have stepped-up — hopefully, will encourage others to follow!), but I wanted you to be aware in case you get a call.”

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