An elderly man in Trenton, Mi., received a dire letter that warned of the “greatest threats to our public safety in our nation’s history.” The solution, the letter says, is clear: “Give our law enforcement officers the crime prevention tools they need.” A donation of $10, $15 or $25 would help keep communities like Trenton safe. Donations aren’t directed to the Trenton Police Department — or typically any other police agency, for that matter. Instead, the money makes its way to a new nonprofit based in Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Star reports. Police departments in four states have found the letters to be misleading enough to issue “scam alerts.” “I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is this, using our name and our police department to raise funds?’” said Trenton Police Lt. Mike Hawkins. “Get out of here.”
The group behind the letters is the National Police Association, a nonprofit that raised more than $100,000 in its first 10 months. Its president is Eddie Hutchison, 59, who says he volunteers a few hours each week. By day, he works for the Indiana attorney general as a fraud investigator. The group’s treasurer, Derek Peterson, and Hutchison deny they’re running a scam. In fundraising letters, the group paints a dystopian picture of communities and police departments under attack. Their association, formed in 2017, is not a membership organization. Its only physical presence is a P.O. Box in Indianapolis. Hutchison has advocated for conservative criminal justice policies, appearing to benefit from a name that sounds official and implies police membership. Fundraising letters in Germantown, Wi., falsely warned that Germantown is a sanctuary city, not cooperating with federal immigration enforcement. Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell told residents to disregard the letter. He reported the association to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service over what he considered to be fraudulent mail. “It’s a scam,” Hoell said.