New Baltimore PD
Del Quentin Wilber
(BALTIMORE) -- Worried that his department is behind in technology and could have trouble attracting enough recruits, Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris has been approaching businesses and nonprofit groups and asking for help - $1.2 million worth.
Norris has set up the Baltimore Police Foundation to solicit donations to buy equipment. He would especially like to purchase gadgets that track cellular telephones, wire-tapping devices and possibly surveillance cameras for street corners.
"This will enable me to buy some of this stuff and buy it quickly," Norris said.
Norris' goal is to raise $ 1.2 million in the next year - about a half of 1 percent of the department's $211 million budget. Only about a 10th of 1 percent of the department's budget, about $200,000, goes to equipment other than cars, while 88 percent of the budget pays for department salaries and benefits, a police spokeswoman said.
"In the scheme of things, it seems like a drop in the bucket," said Olive Waxter, executive director of the Baltimore Police Foundation, which began raising money about two months ago. "In actuality, that figure is such a tremendous improvement over what our equipment budget is today."
Norris also would like the foundation to fund a "real professional recruiting campaign" - if he can persuade the U.S. Justice Department to fund 500 additional police officers through grants.
The foundation has raised $200,000. If it raises $900,000, it would receive a $300,000 grant from the France-Merrick Foundation of Towson to achieve its $1.2 million goal, Waxter said.
In the foundation's first few months, Norris and Mayor Martin O'Malley have been playing a critical role in fund-raising, encouraging business leaders to contribute donations and get involved in the foundation, Waxter said.
They are also seeking business donations of equipment, services and experts, Waxter said.
The police foundation has held two luncheons and has approached dozens of nonprofit groups and businesses, including The Sun, in search of donations. The Sun has not decided whether it will contribute, said Luwanda Jenkins, the newspaper's director of community affairs.
Norris brought the idea of a police foundation from New York, where he spent two decades as an officer and became the deputy commissioner of operations.
In New York, the foundation is credited with raising $30 million over 30 years and buying a range of equipment from horses to bulletproof vests.
Norris has also modeled the Baltimore foundation after one that started several years ago in New Orleans and is credited with improving officer salaries and boosting recruiting.
Baltimore-area police departments, including those in Howard and Baltimore counties, have been using police foundations for years.
Baltimore County foundation
Cornelius J. Behan established the Baltimore County Police Foundation in 1980 when he became chief.
Instead of focusing on buying equipment and recruiting, Behan said he wanted the expertise of the business community.
The foundation does not focus on raising money, Behan said, but relies on businesses that lend the department experts and consultants.
Those experts and consultants helped him reorganize parts of the department, he said.
For the most part, policing experts say foundations have worked well in departments across the country.
"Foundation funds have allowed many police departments to experiment with equipment and new ideas that might not be funded through the standard budget," said Sheldon F. Greenberg, who runs the Police Executive Leadership Program at the Johns Hopkins University.
Some watchdog groups worry that money going to the police department might result in conflicts of interest.
"You end up with the off-screen privatization of the police department," said Kathleen S. Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland. "This has potential to be classic conflict of interest."
Skullney also expressed concern about disclosure of donors and of expenses. Under the Internal Revenue Service tax code, the police foundation would not be required to disclose donors' names, just the total amount raised by the foundation.
Possible problems seen
That could cause problems, Skullney said.
"The real concern is the influence and lack of public accountability for that influence," she said.
But foundation officials said they have set up barriers to prevent conflicts but said they have not decided whether they will fully disclose names of their donors.
The New York and New Orleans foundations publish donors' identities in annual reports but will accept anonymous donations.
Waxter said the Baltimore foundation would operate separately from the Police Department, with a board of directors who would evaluate police requests for money.
H. Furlong Baldwin, president and chief executive officer of Mercantile Bank, and Donald J. Shepard, president and CEO of Aegon USA, are co-chairmen of the foundation.
Baldwin, who played an instrumental role in establishing Baltimore County's police foundation, said Baltimore needs help.
'Return on our investment'
"For longer than I can remember, people have been complaining about crime and education in this city," he said. "I can think of nothing we give to or contemplate giving to that will give us a quicker return on our investment."
Some groups said they support the foundation but worry that the Police Department might siphon community funds from their efforts.
"Everyone gets tapped out at some point," said Mitchell Klein, an organizer for the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now, which is an advocate for low-income residents. "As long as it doesn't compete with what we are trying to do..., it is good for the community."
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