LittleSis is proud to announce the release earlier this month of a major collaboration with Color of Change: “Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives,” a report examining the corporate backing of police foundations in nearly two dozen cities and the harms that police foundations inflict upon Black communities through their support for police forces. The report is featured on the microsite – policefoundations.org – along with other resources, as well as information on how to take action around police foundations where you live.
This collaboration follows up on our widely-covered 2020 research releases “Corporate Backers of the Blue: How Corporations Bankroll U.S. Police Foundations” and “Fossil Fuel Industry Pollutes Black & Brown Communities While Propping Up Racist Policing” (see coverage on the Guardian, the Hill, and Gizmodo).
The report release comes on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the New York City Police Foundation (NYCPF). Business leaders created the NYCPF in 1971 to privately fund the city’s police force. Since then dozens more police foundations have sprung up, most of them during the last two decades. Today, a slew of Wall Street firms and other major corporations fund the NYCPF, and its annual gala is a meeting point for business elites across the city – such as Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager.
What are police foundations?
Police foundations raise private money from individual and corporate donors and then turn it over to police departments to use as they wish, typically to purchase weapons, surveillance technology, and other equipment. This process bypasses the typical public oversight that is required for municipal-funded police budgets. Major corporations across virtually every business sector are big supporters of police foundations – lavishing them with hefty donations, serving on their boards of directors, and sponsoring their fancy galas. This corporate backing of cops through police foundations serves to legitimize and prop up police power, while assuring that corporate America maintains its cozy relationship with the police.
Key analysis from the new report
For this report we researched the boards of directors, sponsors, and donors of nearly two dozen major cities across the U.S. We found that corporations across every major industry were donating to these foundations and sponsoring everything from swanky galas to barbeques, golfing tournaments to 5Ks, and more, all in the name of drumming up additional – and most importantly, private – funding for police departments.
Some of the corporate donors and event sponsors identified in the report included:
- Wall Street: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, SunTrust, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase
- Oil & Gas: Chevron, Shell, Marathon, Exelon, DTE Energy
- Real Estate & Development: Cushman & Wakefield, CBRE, Colliers, Newmark, Boston Properties
- Retail & Restaurants: Starbucks, Target, White Castle, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-a, Waffle House
- Tech: Amazon, Facebook, Lyft, Uber, Microsoft, Google
- Media & Communications: Verizon, AT&T, Motorola, Disney, Comcast, Viacom, Fox News, The New York Times
All that private, corporate funding goes directly into the coffers of already-bloated police department budgets to be spent as the department wishes, with no oversight from the public. In fact a 2021 survey of 58 police foundations by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found that 64% reported funding K-9 or mounted units, 14% funded weapons, 9% gun detection technology such as ShotSpotter, and 80% funded the ambiguous “technology and equipment.” In our review we found “technology and equipment” to include controversial surveillance technologies, SWAT gear, and LRAD acoustic weapons.
Perhaps even more shocking however is the fact that executives from these corporations were helping to set strategy at these organizations as directors of the foundations themselves. This means that not only were they involved in fundraising, they had a hand in ensuring where that money went.
For more on the corporate interests behind millions in private donations to police departments across the country check out “Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives” and Policefoundations.org.