When police officers are killed in the line of duty, many of us feel compelled to help provide for the families these men and women leave behind. Foundations and charitable organizations help with donations. Yet a new expose about one fundraiser has shone a light into where the money really goes, and it isn’t pretty.
The expose was published by the Dallas News. Five officers were killed in Dallas on July 7, 2016. Those deaths drew national attention, and are part of the impetus of the Dallas News study.
The Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and the Texas Fallen Officer Foundation are both run by a “charismatic but largely unknown police sergeant named Demetrick Pennie,” Dallas News writes.
These charities took in millions of dollars. The families of the fallen officers, though, only received 22% of the money.
“Instead the bulk of it went to three telemarketing companies, one of which is owned by Pennie’s friend. Tens of thousands of dollars went straight into Pennie’s pocket,” DN found.
The expose digs deep into the records of Pennie’s foundations. Tax filings show where the money is really going. This info-graphic from the paper helps illustrate the breakdown.
“Last year, for every $100 donated to Pennie’s Texas Fallen Officer Foundation, just $5 went to families, while $74 went to telemarketers, $15 to cash reserves and $6 to travel, meals and expenses for Pennie and his team.”
Those numbers are shocking, and have made donors and victims’ families irate.
Pennie, though, is paying himself well to do his charitable work. “Pennie defended his salary, saying it allows him to dedicate more than 20 hours per week to his charity work,” the article points out.
“We need a constant revenue stream coming in,” Pennie told the paper. “Doing the barbecues and stuff like that wasn’t working. Having the fundraisers doing the phone soliciting — that works best for what we need.”
After the shooting in Dallas in 2016, the donations came flooding in. There were multiple organizations helping route that money, and some confusion, too, about who was to handle what.
Some of the checks, the paper reports, meant for one of Pennie’s foundations ended up with another: “Assist the Officer.”
When the group passed the checks back to Pennie, he sued the group.
“In court records,” DN writes, “Pennie alleged that Assist the Officer chairman Frederick Frazier wanted to hurt Pennie’s charity because he believed ‘the ATO should have a monopoly over charitable fundraising for fallen officers’.”
“You’re not supposed to put anyone else’s money in your bank account,” Pennie added. “That’s criminal.”
As Dallas news began its reporting, others were questioning Pennie and his actions. He has come under increasing scrutiny. Still, he remains defiant. Raising money, he contends, costs money.
He’s now started another group. This one reaches out from his native Texas and will focus on a larger playing field. His new group is called The National Fallen Officer Foundation.