If you are already familiar with their work, omg how much do you freaking love them?
One of my favorite CoC campaigns is the yearly drive in early May to raise bail money for incarcerated Black mothers so they can be reunited with their children in time for Mothers Day. These are women who would otherwise languish behind bars (and as of this year in COVID hot houses) because they are too poor to post bail. And yes, also because they are oversurveilled, overpoliced and oversentenced relative to whites in the first place; those are other columns supporting our criminal injustice system that must be toppled in addition to abolishing cash bail. I love this campaign because it’s something we can do collectively to help these women, along with their families and communities, in a meaningful and tangible way.
Another reason to love Color of Change? Their spot-on messaging.
I am a devotee of the STFU-&-Listen School of Allyship™; it serves the privileged ear very well to be informed directly by the very people one wishes to serve. (In case this needs to be said, we must NOT do this by demanding the less-privileged do the work to educate and inform the more-privileged. The least one can do is one’s own research on such matters. It’s not like any of this information is hidden. Quite the opposite: the oppressed have been trying desperately to get their message through our thick white skulls since forever.) This approach helps guard against our instinctual inclination to support “solutions” that may have great appeal through a privilege-warped lens, but are not in fact the solutions marginalized people and communities need. Just as you know what you need better than I do, they know what they need better than we do.
And that, my friends, is why I read and absorb every word of Color of Change’s content: I learn. SO. MUCH. Which brings us to one of their newest campaigns: the call for defunding police foundations. Here is what I learned – and it’s goooood.
First, they registered the url “policepiggybank.com” in late July. Then they populated the site with a petition and related content, including this graphic:
Which, ya know, ❤️❤️❤️❗️❗️❗️
Then, they sent me this email (all emphasis in original):
Subject: Police foundations don’t have to disclose their donors — but some of the biggest brands in the world line their pockets.
Iris — what do Amazon, Starbucks, Target, AT&T, and Coca-Cola all have in common?
Ooh! Ooh! I think I know this one! Is it…none of them pay their employees living wages? WHAT DO I WIN?!
Yes, these are some of the largest, most well-known brands in the world, and they all released statements in support of Black Lives Matter this summer. But behind closed doors, these corporations are also top donors to police foundations — dark money groups that help cops acquire surveillance tech, military weapons, SWAT team equipment, and other tools used to terrorize Black people.
Well no wonder they don’t pay living wages! They simply cannot afford it! Militarizing the nation’s police forces with state-of-the-art weapons of war and surveillance systems doesn’t come cheap, people. And I ask you: what should be a higher priority for profit-driven corporations than doing everything they can to ensure their own customers and employees are secretly and thoroughly surveilled, openly brutalized, overly incarcerated and murdered, unarmed, in their own homes and in the streets?
Join us to demand corporations like Coca-Cola, Amazon, Starbucks, and Target divest from police foundations immediately.
If you’ve never heard of police foundations, you’re not alone.
Why no, no I have not! Please, go on…
Here’s the gist:
Police foundations are private, non-profit groups. They partner with corporations and wealthy donors to raise money to supplement bloated police budgets, fund policing programs, and purchase equipment for cops with little to no public oversight.
Hmm. Seems to me “little to no public oversight” is a phrase that should never, ever appear in the same sentence with the word “police.” Nor should it appear in the same sentence as “corporations” or “wealthy donors,” but that’s for another
anti-capitalist screed post.
And while police budgets are usually public documents that must be approved by local elected officials, police foundations exist as a backchannel to funnel corporate cash and resources toward law enforcement.
Well, police are way underfunded! Where’s a violent, racist, armed-to-the-teeth organization to turn for help if not Coca-Cola, huh?
Across the country, corporate-backed police foundations directly support the continued hyper-surveillance of Black, Brown, and Indigenous neighborhoods. They enable the ongoing militarization and expansion of policing. And when activists began calling on corporations to cut ties with police, foundations in at least four major cities removed public information on their partners and board members.1
Hmmm. If there’s nothing nefarious to see here, why can’t we see it?
It’s up to us to push Amazon, Starbucks, Target, AT&T, and Coca-Cola beyond the statement — to demand they do more than pretend to be “woke” on social media.
If these corporations want to stand in solidarity with Black people, they must immediately divest from the police foundations and departments that harm Black people. Sign our petition now.
Done – you had me at “little to no public oversight.”
More than 200 police foundations across the U.S. allow corporations to contribute to police departments outside of public funds. Top corporate donors include Verizon, Walmart, Starbucks, Amazon, Bank of America, Target, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Chevron, Wells Fargo, Waffle House, and many more.2
Et tu, Waffle House? WHAT A SHOCKER.
Almost all of these corporations have committed to do more to “fight for racial justice” and “stand with the Black community.” Yet they all continue to enable over-militarized police forces and the harm they cause Black communities.
From coast to coast, police foundations enable cops to terrorize Black and Brown people. Here’s how:
- The Atlanta Police Foundation purchased 12,000 surveillance cameras to monitor already overpoliced Black neighborhoods.3 Just days after the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, the Coke-funded police foundation gave every Atlanta cop a $500 bonus.4
- At the behest of the city’s police chief, the Los Angeles Police Foundation asked Target to purchase controversial, invasive Palantir surveillance technology for the LAPD.5
- In the last three years, Philadelphia’s police foundation has spent almost $1.5 million “for PPD needs,” including long guns, drones, and Ballistic Helmets for the Philly Police SWAT unit.6
- New York’s police foundation has gone even further to expand policing and brags about furnishing New York cops with weapons to “test” on some of the most vulnerable communities. Former New York Police Foundation Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said it best: “I say we pay for failures. When the police department leadership wants to try something and [the police foundation] thinks it has value, then we give it a shot. We relieve the political pressure of trying things that might not work.”7
That statement speaks for itself – and it speaks volumes.
Hemmerdinger’s admission is as detestable as it is rare. Police foundations don’t have to disclose who their donors are or where their dark money goes. And police foundations aren’t just in major cities — they’re everywhere.
We know from experience that corporations won’t change their ways unless their profits and reputation are at stake. We also know that there’s strength in numbers, and we need you with us now.
Iris, sign our petition to tell corporations: We are watching you, and we will hold you accountable. Divest from the police foundations that have helped militarize the police and put our communities in danger.
We have the power to defend Black lives and hold police foundations and their corporate donors accountable. And together, with your help, we will.
Until justice is real,
Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Erika, Malachi, Leonard, Marybeth, Ernie, Madison, McKayla and the rest of the Color Of Change team
2. “Corporate Backers of the Blue: How Corporations Bankroll U.S. Police Foundations.” Eyes On The Ties, LittleSis.
5. “Private Donors Supply Spy Gear to Cops.” ProPublica.
6. “Philadelphia Police Foundation – ALMOST $1.5 MILLION FOR PPD NEEDS IN THE LAST 3 YEARS.” Philadelphia Police Foundation.
7. “Law Enforcement’s Secret Weapon: Police foundations support and even pioneer public-safety enhancements.” Philanthropy Roundtable.
I also love that Color of Change always brings receipts, in the form of linked citations.
More from policepiggybank.com:
Note: When you view this section on the site, you can hover over the logos to see which city’s police foundation that company funds: Target, Bank of America, AT&T and Wells Fargo are all funding the terribly impoverished NYPD.
This is pretty typical of CoC’s campaigns: smart, simple, engaging, enlightening. But will it be effective? You be the judge: did you go sign the petition? Did you share it? Well….?
Of course I would be remiss if I did not state what all of us know – or certainly should know: The nation’s police forces are a tool of the nation’s government(s). It is not a coincidence that these institutions “protect and serve” the same interests. [HINT: See those corporate logos above.] Ever notice how police make a huge deal about their mission being to protect and serve – but never say who?