Police departments in at least four states have raised concerns about an Indianapolis-based not-for-profit, alleging the group conducts fundraising scams targeting vulnerable people under the guise of raising money for law enforcement.
The Trenton Police Department in Michigan is among the agencies that have issued scam alerts about letters sent by the National Police Association, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The letters indicate the group is raising money for law enforcement in the Trenton area, but the police department has never received any funds, said Police Chief Todd Scheffler. The association's affiliations with any police organizations are undefined, and last month National Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Jim Pasco said he was not familiar with the organization.
"People think they're doing something beneficial to the community (by donating) and the community doesn't see any benefit from this," Scheffler said. "They're just giving money to somebody. We don't know who this is. It comes back to a P.O. Box."
Agencies in Wisconsin, Florida and Indiana have also raised concerns about the group's authenticity.
The association's president is 59-year-old Eddie Hutchison of Hamilton County. Hutchison works for the Indiana attorney general's office as a fraud investigator and said he volunteers for the not-for-profit a few hours a week.
Hutchison's attorney, Derek Peterson, said the association isn't a scam.
"The Police Chiefs that you refer to have not made those assertions to the NPA," Peterson said. "The NPA does not know the basis of such alleged comments, nor the context of such comments."
According to a tax filing, Peterson and Hutchinson are not paid a salary by the association.
The National Police Association insisted it does not misrepresent itself. The not-for-profit, which first incorporated in Delaware and then registered in Indiana, also said it does not raise money or advocate for policy positions in Indiana.
"The NPA utilizes a third-party company to conduct fundraising," Peterson said. "The NPA has been advised that through the third-party fundraising company, the NPA does not solicit funds on behalf of local police departments."
That third-party company, Direct Response Consulting Services, declined to comment on the record regarding its fundraising letters for the National Police Association.
Critics also said the group's letters target vulnerable people and use fear-mongering language, citing instances in which the organization sent letters wrongly telling the recipients that they lived in a "sanctuary city," a term that generally means a locality that limits cooperation with federal immigration enforcement activities.
"Countless Americans have already been robbed, mugged, raped and even murdered as a direct result of Sanctuary policies of allowing known criminals to remain on the streets," one National Police Association letter said.
Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell said residents in his Wisconsin village received such letters, though it isn't a sanctuary city.
"It's a scam," Hoell said. "It's no different than any other scam—just a different angle."
Hoell said he reported the case to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for fraudulent mail, but hasn't received an update on the issue.