Please note: this appeal for police donations may come from a political action committee.

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A protester holds up a sign as San Diego police follow a bike ride in June 2020. Photo by Chris Stone

The man on the other end is asking for money for police protection. It wasn’t the usual robocall, and hearing a human voice kept me on the line.

The caller said he was calling on behalf of the Police Defense Committee. Several voices could be heard in the background. It sounded like the lawyer was calling from a “boiler room,” where individuals dial from a list of working phone numbers. In this case, the pitch was for money to “help the police in the continuing war on the cops.”

As our conversation continued, the appellant reduced the amount of funding he was requesting. He first asked for $ 95 and finally said he would accept a contribution of $ 15 as a “goodwill” offer from me. This would allow me to “talk to your wife” about the possibility of considering further contributions.

I later learned that the organization is based in Fairfax, Va., And is a Political Action Committee, or PAC. Citing its website, the “Committee in Defense of Police Officers is a 527 committee designed to seek out prosecutors, judges and radical prosecutors.” Another organization is also named on the website: the Police Officers’ Defense Coalition.

While researching the organizations, I discovered many similar sounding names for PACs who fundraise for police officers. The Police Officers Defense Alliance, for example, raised $ 3.2 million in 2020, and the American Police Officers Alliance raised $ 4.3 million. The source of the funding information was OpenSecrets, a database that tracks spending on US politics maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Each organization says it spends money to have police mistreated and unfairly targeted. This comes at a time when some community activists have called for “defining” the police.

The Police Officer Defense Committee, the telemarketers who called me, have asked for a California tax exemption. The application also included the name Police Officers Defense Coalition, as well as Police Officers Defense Alliance. The latter is the name of the PAC I found earlier that had raised $ 3.2 million in contributions.

Virginia incorporation documents show that James Fortis is president of the Alliance and changed the name to Defense Coalition. It appears that there are a number of nonprofits under the apparent control of Fortis.

It’s also worth noting that while her organization is based in Virginia and receives mail in Stafford, Texas, Fortis lives in Lake Worth, Florida. The websites describe his career in law enforcement and his role as the creator of the “Police Safety Act” legislation passed by former San Diego Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

One of Fortis’ websites solicits money from people “guilty of a crime for doing their job the way they were trained to do it.” As an example, he cites former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona. President Trump pardoned the sheriff even after the Justice Department described Arpaio as responsible for the worst case of racial profiling in US history.

The website soliciting funds for Arpaio says, “The Liberals targeted Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a multi-million dollar lawsuit (which could even result in jail time) because he was following the law of the land.

Tax records show that the Fortis organization that phoned me raised $ 75,000 in 2021, up from $ 50,000 the year before.

Three calls to his Virginia office for comment went unanswered along with an email sent directly to his address listed in his documents with California.

For anyone interested in supporting law enforcement, experts say, think local. Do not send your money to a national fundraising group for causes that are not always clear. If it is PAC, the fundraising effort is politically motivated and will not necessarily support the San Diego area officers or deputies or their families.

Local organizations that raise funds on behalf of San Diego law enforcement include: Star / Pal for San Diego Police, which provides educational and recreational services to downtown youth, and the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs’ Foundation, which provides support services to personal and family Sheriffs.

JW August is a San Diego-based digital and broadcast journalist.


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