The Baltimore Sun reports that an alternative to the troubled Baltimore Police Foundation, which donates equipment and funding for police initiatives in the city, lacks oversight and transparency. Charitable donations to police now flow through two funds at the Baltimore Community Foundation, which lack the independent oversight of a board and are not required to publicly disclose donations or spending. The murky donation process fueled anger over the secrecy surrounding a foundation-funded aerial surveillance initiative, which became public last week and will be examined during City Council hearings.
More than 300 police departments have formal foundations with boards of directors and public reporting requirements. In Boston and St. Louis this summer, the charitable arms of those police agencies purchased ice cream trucks for community outreach. Over the years, the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation has donated horses for mounted patrols, dogs for canine units and a bomb squad robot. It is not uncommon to use a community foundation to handle such gifts, said Pamela Delaney of the National Police Foundations Network. But she said it is not the best way for a police department to raise money. “Transparency is critical for police foundations,” Delaney said. “There’s always fear of corruption, and an organization that has police in its name has to be particularly careful.”