Police Agencies Need to Take 'Dirty' Money

Whatever the incentive is for someone donating something, it shouldn't be of concern so long as we conduct ourselves in a manner that is expected of us and we have no reason to believe the nature of what we are receiving stands to compromise us.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Throughout the years I've known various people and entities that were willing to donate time, money, and logistics to help law enforcement agencies. Some of these offers have been accepted.

But many others have been turned down. Consider my experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Among the offers declined by LASD's Industry Station when I served there were several from a gentleman's club in our patrol jurisdiction. Now, I'll concede that the term "gentleman's club" is an oxymoron, as hardly any gentlemen darken the doorway. But these businesses are huge revenue generators and this one paid its taxes, did everything by the numbers, and did not have employees engaging in the kind of libidinous largesse associated with some of our more reputable massage parlors in the area.

Unfortunately, each time this business tried to donate, the department turned it down. Mind you, the proposed donations came at a time when deputies were:

  • Expected to push outdated radio cars long beyond their expiration dates.
  • Work additional assignments other than those already assigned them while being expected to still fulfill their regular duties without additional compensation.
  • Rely on antique shotguns that often lacked front sights (and many of the sights that were present had been Frankensteined from even more dilapidated models).
  • Defer reports they were expected to either do on their own time or the next time they showed up to work because the county couldn't afford to pay them the OT.
  • Deny promotions and transfers.

In other words, an era much like today.

That these offers were being declined struck me as pretty damn pathetic. Theoretically, if the donations had been accepted, monies that had therefore been saved could have been used to defray other costs. (I say theoretically because I've also seen some pretty chickenshit rationalizations wherein saved monies that were supposed to be earmarked for one thing suddenly became earmarked for another. It happens! Really!)

When I'd make inquiries as to why these seemingly arbitrary decisions were being made with regard to such donations, the reasons given were usually along the lines of: 1) a perceived guilt by association; 2) the taint of illicit money; 3) the possibility of it being perceived as a "quid pro quo" agreement.

Well, let's look at some of these "inhibiters."

"Guilt by Association": Look, maybe you don't want your troops patronizing gentlemen's clubs on duty. I get it. But face it, when it comes to community standards, if your local economy is able to sustain no less than seven strip clubs within a three-mile radius, I don't think you have to sweat Carrie Nation storm-trooping your desk area anytime soon. Besides, the idea that a department obliged to deal with such crimes as money-extorting deputies, commanders and chiefs getting DUIs, embezzling narcotics investigators, abusive jail custodians, and even accusations of murders committed by sworn personnel might really sweat being vicariously associated with a clothing-optional establishment just seems dumb. (True, I might not make a point of alerting the local community paper for a handshake photo op...But I would take the money.)

"Taint of illicit money": First off, such businesses already pays taxes, taxes that help pay municipal salaries. So we'd just be cutting out the middle man. And let's not ignore how many billions of dollars Americans spend annually on illicit drugs. Is it not fair to acknowledge that here in Southern California we law enforcement officers generally only get the low-level users in custody while routinely being expected to turn a blind eye while working security at those various premiers, parties, and awards ceremonies wherein celebrities parade around with blown-out pupils? And outside of Hollywood, do you really believe that many of your top corporate CEO who are putting in 80-hour work weeks are doing it all on decaf, soy lattes? Have you not heard the many tales of how much of our circulated currency carries the taint of illicit drugs?

So guess what? It's ALL dirty money (Can I help your piously delusional self off that high horse now?)

"Quid pro quo": LASD and other law enforcement agencies have a history of using high-profile celebrities to do recruitment PSAs for them. Do these same celebrities occasionally find themselves culpable for various acts of social malfeasance committed while under the influence or drugs, alcohol, anger, or some combination thereof? Uh, yeah. Do we worry about quid pro quo and decide not to arrest them? You tell me.

And as it stands, some of the companies from which LASD did actually accept donations turned out to be, shall we say, less than 100 percent pure in reputation and motives. And yet the last I heard the strip joint was still doing business without any problems.

I got to thinking about this when I read of Portland PD's problems with finding funds for what today is basic law enforcement technology.

I don't know what Portland will do about its problems any more than I do about what any of the thousands of other departments are going to do about theirs.

But I would make the point that whatever the incentive is for someone donating something on our or the community's behalf, it shouldn't be of our concern so long as we conduct ourselves in a manner that is expected of us and we have no reason to believe the nature of what we are receiving stands to compromise us in any way (i.e., it's not stolen, counterfeit, or coming from Mel Gibson).

Moreover, if I ran a law enforcement agency I would actually establish units whose primary agenda was to go out and solicit donations of everything from money to business printers to military surplus. And I wouldn't be one damned bit embarrassed by such a move if it stood to prevent one family's heartache because the responding officers have the tools they need to do the job. Besides, I think the public would be pleased as punch if a needy law enforcement agency accepted money from such sources instead of going out and extorting it from taxpayers via chickenshit code enforcements.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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