New York, N.Y. — Today, Color Of Change released a new first of its kind report in partnership with LittleSis (Public Accountability Initiative) examining the 50-year history of police foundations and the corporate donations and partnerships that enable police violence nationwide.
The report, Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives, marks the most extensive study to-date on the financial ties between police foundations and corporations, identifying ties to at least 55 Fortune 500 companies. This is the largest known study identifying the acute threat that police foundations pose to Black and Brown communities and democracy.
The full report is available here.
As a result of Color Of Change’s findings and ongoing conversations, Coca-Cola, one of the Atlanta Police Foundation’s largest corporate donors, has stepped down from the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
“Corporations bankroll police foundations, and then police foundations use that support to attack common sense reforms, spread misinformation about reformers, and defend the most outdated, violent and racially biased practices of police officers,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change. “Only cutting ties with police foundations will show that corporate leaders are serious about protecting Black lives and bringing our police departments into the 21st Century.”
“Police foundations are effectively public-private partnerships through which major corporations fund and legitimize police forces, all with little to no public oversight on how funds are spent,” said Derek Seidman, a research analyst with LittleSis and a contributor to the report. “This report shines a long overdue spotlight on corporate America’s role in propping up and normalizing police power through police foundations.”
“The NYC Police Foundation, also known as the NYPD’s slush fund, has built tremendous power under a cloak of secrecy in the last 50 years that has directly contributed to the NYPD’s systemic violence against Black, Latinx, and other New Yorkers of color,” said Kesi Foster, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “The NYPD has exploited loopholes to avoid reporting on the Police Foundation’s spending, allowing donations to act as a piggy bank for unregulated NYPD operations in New York City as well as in other parts of the country and globe. Corporations, if they’re at all serious about their public commitments to ending police violence, must end their involvement with and divest from police foundations across the country.”
Police foundations are private organizations that funnel corporate money into policing. While police department budgets are public documents subject to negotiations and public approvals, police foundations provide a backchannel to direct private money and resources toward law enforcement without government oversight and out of public view. These organizations allow police departments nationwide to fund aggressive surveillance technology, military-grade weapons, SWAT equipment, and experimental predictive policing programs used to target Black and Brown communities.
Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives looks at police foundations in 23 major U.S. cities, including New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Louisville, Seattle and Houston, and identifies the corporate affiliations of over 1,200 donors and sponsors.
The report, which aggregates the two most recent years of available data, shows that 55 Fortune 500 Companies from across every major corporate sector donate to police foundations including: Bank of America, Truist (formerly SunTrust), Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Chase, BlackRock, Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, Verizon, AT&T, Chervon, Shell, Target, and Walmart.
The report urges corporations, policymakers, and community members to:
- Divest immediately from police foundations and any law enforcement non-profits, and refuse any positions on police foundation boards;
- Hold hearings, mandate disclosure and require public approval of expenditures to ensure funding is not spent on controversial technology; and
- Examine local police foundations and partnerships that fund militarization and expansion of policing.
This report is a part of Color Of Change’s mission to expose police foundations for their role in perpetuating anti-Black police violence and undermining the public policy-making process as major cities throughout the country are reconsidering public safety investments. Last summer, it launched a campaign petition urging major corporations to stop supporting police foundations. Earlier this year, it launched a separate petition demanding that the New York City Police Foundation disclose its contributions to the NYPD after police refused to disclose them during the FY2021 NYC budget hearings. And in August, Color Of Change partnered with Atlanta activists and organizers to help amplify demands to block the destruction of the Atlanta Forest to build “Cop City,” a massive $90 million police training facility sponsored by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by over 7 million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and governments to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. Visit www.colorofchange.org