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A protester reacts after being hit with tear gas

A woman reacts to being hit with pepper spray by U.S. Park Police in Lafayette Square near the White House on June 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis /Getty Images)

Corporate-Backed Police Foundations Pose 'Threat to Democracy and Black Lives': Report

"We cannot let corporations talk about 'Black lives' on their Twitter feeds while also funding police violence on our streets."

Brett Wilkins

Many of the same corporations trumpeting their support for Black lives are duplicitously bankrolling police violence via little-known but powerful police foundations in cities across the United States, a new report released Thursday revealed.

"Many police foundations' top corporate sponsors made public statements in support of Black Lives Matter while providing a corporate slush fund for police."

The racial justice group Color of Change and the public accountability initiative LittleSis published the report—entitled Police Foundations: A Corporate-Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives—which highlights financial ties between police foundations and corporations, including at least 55 Fortune 500 firms.

Police foundations—private organizations that funnel donations from companies and outside groups to law enforcement agencies—are "protecting corporate interests and enabling state-sanctioned violence against Black communities and communities of color," the report notes.

"It's impossible to separate the world of policing from the world of money," the authors assert.

In Georgia, the Atlanta Police Foundation's sponsors include Amazon, Bank of America, Chick-fil-A, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Waffle House, Wells Fargo, Uber, and UPS—to name but a few.

"These are the donors we know about," the report states. "As calls for accountability increased in recent years, police foundations have taken additional steps to scrub their websites and hide donor information."

"There is a police foundation in nearly every major American city, behind almost every police department, backed by wealthy donors and giant multinational corporations," the report adds. "In 2020, many police foundations' top corporate sponsors made public statements in support of Black Lives Matter while providing a corporate slush fund for police."

After Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with murder for fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in the back in June 2020—a time when Black Americans were reeling from recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others—the Atlanta Police Foundation said it would pay every cop in the city a $500 bonus. This, as many of the corporations sustaining the foundation rushed to profess their support for racial justice.

"Police accountability and corporate accountability are even more inextricably linked than they may appear," the report argues. "We cannot let corporations talk about 'Black lives' on their Twitter feeds while also funding police violence on our streets."

Color of Change president Rashad Robinson said that "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."

As a result of the report's findings and ongoing conversations, Coca-Cola—which in 2018 pledged $2 million to its hometown Atlanta Police Foundation—has resigned from the foundation's board of trustees.

However, such action is the exception to the rule. New companies continue to contribute to police foundations, swelling already bloated law enforcement budgets, funding police militarization, enabling ever-expanding surveillance, and spreading "copaganda"—messaging that fuels fears about crime and promotes the normalization of ever-growing policing.

"Corporations bankroll police foundations," said Robinson, "and then police foundations use that support to attack commonsense reforms, spread misinformation about reformers, and defend the most outdated, violent, and racially biased practices of police officers."

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