How community foundations can fund first responder training

Following the shooting at YouTube headquarters, Google and YouTube donated $280K to a community foundation to fund police, first responder training


The shooting at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, opened the eyes of employees of that large corporation to the risks that police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics take every day to protect their communities. Within a week of that violent event, YouTube employees, Google and Google.org donated more than $280,000 to the San Bruno Community Foundation's First Responder Effectiveness Strategic Initiative.

The initiative, which began only a month before the shooting, supports first responder effectiveness training and other programs in partnership with the San Bruno Police and Fire Departments. It started with an initial grant of $160,000 from the Foundation to the city of San Bruno. The grant was generated from the $70 million in restitution funds paid by Pacific Gas and Electric after the devastating 2010 pipeline explosion that rocked that community.

The purpose of San Bruno’s First Responder Effectiveness Strategic Initiative

A group walks out of a YouTube office building in San Bruno, Calif., Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A group walks out of a YouTube office building in San Bruno, Calif., Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The San Bruno First Responder Effectiveness Strategic Initiative aims to bolster the effectiveness of the city’s first responders, both in their daily interaction with the community and in the event of a serious disaster.

The pipeline explosion that birthed the San Bruno Community Foundation, along with the most recent shooting at the YouTube headquarters, led the Foundation to recognize the importance of giving first responders the tools and training that the city’s budget cannot support.

The funding will be used to support three main projects:

  1. Purchase of emergency shelter equipment and supplies to enable the city to operate an emergency shelter if needed.
  2. Conducting critical facility site assessments, incident action plans and joint public safety planning. This provides for training and technical assistance in preparation for potential natural disaster or other large-scale incidents.
  3. Deliver police officer mindfulness, compassion and resiliency training. This is a preventative measure to equip police officers to perform through occupational trauma with greater capacity for awareness, cognitive performance and humanity.

Not only will the funds support the equipment, supplies and training necessary for first responders to provide public safety to the community daily and in times of disaster, but these dollars will also focus on the individual police officer’s physical and mental health as they perform their duties.

How community foundations are funding police, first responders

Over the past few years, community foundations across the U.S. have established similar initiatives that recognize the importance of first responder effectiveness, providing grants, donations and other types of support. Here are a few examples:

  • Community Foundation of Texas – The Backing the Blue grant provides $15 million to the Dallas Police Department (DPD) to fund critical equipment, study best police practices and prepare leaders in the DPD to become better educated, better trained officers who effectively protect and serve the citizens of Dallas.
  • Great Falls Police Community Foundation – Established by business and civic leaders in this Montana community, funding is dedicated to help the Great Falls Police Department keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, strategies and training. Videos created with the funding highlight the risks and challenges officers face daily.
  • Code3 – The Code3 Foundation is focused on the Metro Washington D.C. area and has supported numerous projects to educate, equip and empower police with tools and resources, while also creating conditions for officers and community members to work together. Among its many awarded grants includes one to the Prince William County Police Department to establish a Wellness and Resiliency Unit.  
  • Honolulu Community Police Foundation – Supports police officers, their families and the community, strengthening the services, organization and performance of the Honolulu Police Department.

How police departments can work with community foundations

You can find community foundations throughout the country. As the name implies, these philanthropic organizations are established to support statewide, regional or local communities.  They can serve as a resource for your police department, so encourage them to allocate funding for “effectiveness initiatives” similar to those being implemented in San Bruno. Here are five ways to accomplish this:

  1. Research which community foundation(s) represents your area. The Foundation Center is a great source.
  2. Develop talking points highlighting the importance of an effectiveness program to your officers and the community as a whole. Cite examples of similar community foundation initiatives.
  3. Contact your local foundation and speak to a program officer.
  4. Invite your local foundation to send representatives to events you are holding in your community.
  5. Attend local Chamber of Commerce meetings, as community foundations are often represented on these boards.

The partnership you establish with your community foundation could help fund an effectiveness initiative for your department, providing valuable tools and training to better prepare your officers for the challenges they face protecting your communities.

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