VACP Advisory Regarding Donations to Law Enforcement Organizations
As each calendar year comes to a close, non-profit organizations large and small make their final pleas for charitable donations, often using the motivation that your donation is tax-deductible. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police would like to remind citizens to review these solicitations carefully and to research the organizations asking for your money before sending in that donation.
While the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation (VACP) is a 501(c)3 charitable organization and will gladly accept donations to support our educational efforts via our website, the VACP does not engage in telemarketing or direct mail solicitation campaigns for donations. There are other law enforcement membership associations or foundations in Virginia with potentially similar sounding names to the VACP that might engage in such direct solicitation efforts, but they are not the VACP. Our affiliate organization, the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (VACLEA) also does not engage in telemarketing or direct mail campaigns.
Additionally, there are a number of organizations out there that attempt to solicit funds from citizens with the mission of supporting law enforcement. Their marketing materials might use phrases such as “backing the blue” or “supporting the thin blue line” or “behind the badge.” Read these solicitations carefully before donating. Often times, these are not actually charitable organizations, but rather political action committees or funds (PACs) and your donation to such entities is NOT tax deductible.
Donations to 501(c)3 charitable law enforcement organizations (like the VACP or a local police foundation) typically go to fund educational scholarships for law enforcement officers or their dependents, relief funds for injured officers or the families of deceased officers, “shop with a cop” type events for underprivileged children, and other similar programs.
Donations to law enforcement-friendly PACs, however, don't usually directly support law enforcement or your local law enforcement agency. Instead, those funds go toward supporting pro-law enforcement political candidates or toward lobbying efforts for increased law enforcement agency funding or other such support. Sometimes, solicitations from these PACs or other law enforcement-supporting entities might reference a citizen's local law enforcement agency in their materials, but this does not necessarily mean your local agency is connected with that solicitation effort or that they will directly benefit.
The following options are the VACP's recommendations for citizens wanting to support their local Virginia law enforcement officers or agencies:
Your local agency's own police foundation. Police departments are governmental entities and are not able to accept direct donations from citizens wishing to show their support. However, many police departments have established their own 501(c)3 charitable foundations to support their officers or the department's community outreach efforts. If you call your local department, they should be able to direct you to their foundation's website or provide you with contact information. Some departments may simply have an arrangement with a local bank to accept donations into an account for specified purposes (such as supporting the family of a deceased officer).
Virginia Public Safety Foundation (VPSF) – https://www.VPSF.org. The Virginia Public Safety Foundation is a statewide organization that supports not only Virginia law enforcement officers but also fire/EMS personnel, correctional officers, and Virginia National Guard officers who are injured or killed in the line of duty. The VPSF offers grants in aid to injured officers or the families of slain officers, and also maintains the Commonwealth Public Safety Memorial in Richmond recognizing public safety officers killed in the line of duty.
Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation (VACP) – https://www.vachiefs.org/donate. As mentioned before, the VACP does accept donations from individuals. We mainly use those donated funds to support training and leadership education for Virginia law enforcement officers whose agencies have limited training funds. We also collect donations to support the VACP's efforts to promote public safety and crime prevention.
Virginia Sheriffs' Institute – https://vasheriffsinstitute.org. The VACP would be remiss if we didn't recommend supporting our colleagues in brown. For those citizens who are primarily served by a sheriff's office instead of a police department, you might want to make a donation to the Virginia Sheriffs' Institute (VSI), which is the 501(c)3 charitable arm of the Virginia Sheriffs' Association (VSA). The VSI raises funds for similar purposes to the VACP (to support training and education of law enforcement officers and to promote public safety and crime prevention throughout Virginia) and to the VPSF (support the family of any Sheriff or deputy killed in the line of duty), as well as for scholarships for Virginia students wanting to pursue criminal justice degrees.
Virginia State Police Association – https://www.vspa.org/ways-to-give/. The VSPA is the membership association for Virginia State troopers (not to be confused with the Virginia Department of State Police.) They collect donations for two separate funds:
Their General Fund provides Trooper Teddy Bears to troopers so they may comfort traumatized children, supports drug and alcohol prevention programs, and provides funds for our legislative efforts to promote safety on our highways and in our communities throughout Virginia.
Their Emergency Relief Fund provides emergency relief to members of the Department of State Police, other law enforcement agencies, and their families during crisis in their lives when there is no where else to turn for assistance.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains an online reporting system for telemarketing and other scams, which can be found at https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc and many State Attorneys General offer assistance in reporting and responding to fraud.
If contacted by a charity or organization soliciting a donation, you can research the charity/organization through the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs online at https://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/food-charitable-solicitation.shtml, the Virginia Attorney General's Office at www.oag.state.va.us/consumer-protection/, or by calling toll-free 1-800-552-0063 or 804-786-2042.
Ms. Dana G. Schrad, Executive Director
Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation