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Richmond Police Officers Suffer Identity Crisis

In a mailer that apparently targeted every Richmond household, the Richmond Police Officers Association (RPOA), is soliciting donations for worthy causes, described as follows:

“Please join me today by donating to our worthy cause. Along with many others, we also support the Area Little Leagues, Drug Resistance Programs, Christmas Programs, Widows & Orphans Funds, and Area High School Scholarship Programs.”

According the last Form 990 (2004) posted on the California Attorney General’s Charitable Trust website, the RPOA’s favorite charity is the RPOA. Of the $286,840 raised in 2004, the largest amount ($122,000) went for insurance. $29,696 went for the Christmas Dinner Dance. $36,885 went to the Legal Defense Fund, and $14,103 went to Prepaid Legal Services and Benefits. $14,290 went for Retirement Dinner and Awards.

To be fair, there was some charitable giving consistent with what was described in the solicitation. Take for example, “Area Little Leagues.” The RPOA gave $250 to sponsor a little league team – in East County! Or how about “Christmas Programs? Sure, they gave $250 for the Fairfield POA Toys-for-Tots Softball Tournament and $600 to the San Pablo POA for San Pablo Adopt-A-Family. Scholarships, you bet! $350 went to provide scholarships in Malvern, Arkansas.

All in all, the Richmond RPOA gave $9,107 to what could be described as legitimate charitable causes, some of them actually in Richmond. That’s slightly over 3% of their total take. I thought you should know that before writing a check or contributing on-line with your credit card.

A number of people were confused by the solicitation letter because it intermingles descriptions as being from the Eureka Police Officers and the Richmond Police Officers, probably a hastily prepared and poorly edited version of a previous solicitation by a company that specializes in extracting donations from ordinary citizens who want to support their local police. The letter was signed by “Ofc.

Kevin Lawson, President, Eureka Police Officers' Association,” with a picture of Kevin Martin (of the Richmond Police). Apparently, the Internet version of the solicitation at http://www.policedonation.com/richmond/ was finally corrected last night.

Although I highly respect Richmond Police officers and what they do for us on a daily basis, I think these fundraisers by public safety unions are despicable. Most of the money donated goes to the company that handles the solicitation, and what meager amount that ends up with police or firefighters goes mostly going to internal union activities – not community organizations and events.

To make matters worse, the phone number given for information is 510-621-1279, a Richmond city phone paid for by taxpayers and answered by on-duty officers who should be out on the streets stopping homicides.

Finally, the whole thing is probably illegal because it has not been registered as a commercial fundraiser with the California Attorney Aeneral (see http://www.ag.ca.gov/cfr/index.htm). The entire 2004 Form 990 from the RPOA can be seen at http://partners.guidestar.org/partners/cadoj/docs.jsp?npoId=100628232.