What You Should Know Before Answering Charity's Call
When your phone rings and someone asks you to donate money, how do you know it will really go to a worthy cause?
A group calling itself the "Police Protective Fund" is claiming to raise money to help local police officers and their families.
Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus shows why you might want to think twice before you give.
In June of 2002, the Clarksville Police Department lost two officers in a high-speed chase. They were trying to catch an armed robbery suspect when their patrol car slammed into another vehicle and caught on fire.
David Scott was one of the two officers. He left behind a wife and four children - just the kind of people you might think the Police Protective Fund would help.
"So what kind of help did you get from the Police Protective Fund?" Kraus asked Scott's widow, Trina.
"None," Trina said.
In the last nine years, the Police Protective Fund has taken in more than $40-million in donations; money the Fund claimed would go to families.
Yet, our investigation has found that just over $200,000 of it actually has gone to families.
Yet, when the Police Protective Fund called Pam and Chip Clayton recently, Pam says she was told, "I could give $25, $50 or $75 dollars."
She also recalled that they were told their donation would provide assistance right here in Middle Tennessee
Pam said the caller told her the money would go "to help families of officers from Williamson County, from fallen officers in Williamson County."
What made the call even more convincing, they added, was that their caller ID showed the call was coming from the 615 area code.
"It appears that it is a local number," says Chip.
Todd Kelley, the head of the Tennessee's Charitable Solicitations Division, said of the Police Protective Fund:
"They are trying to mislead the public into who they really are and what they are really supporting."
Kelley told Kraus he is concerned.
It turns out that, despite what the caller id says, the group's fundraising calls come from Florida.
While the Police Protective Fund has long touted that it gives money to fallen officers' families, most -- we discovered -- never see a dime.
"I received no money from this fund. No support whatsoever," said Trina.
Carol Denning lost her son Brian last December. He was a Sumner County Sheriff's deputy and member of the local Drug Task Force.
NewsChannel5 Investigates asked Denning, "What kind of help did you receive from the Police Protective Fund?"
"No help. No help at all," said Denning.
In the last nine years, more than 40 officers have been killed on the job in Tennessee. Yet, only two families here have received money, totaling just a little more than $12,000 dollars.
"The money that they are raising does not go to any organization in Tennessee. It goes to a national organization," said Kelley.
According to the group's tax returns, most of that money goes not to help officers' families, but to raise more money. For example, in 2007, the Police Protective Fund took in nearly $7 million. It spent almost $5 million of that money on fundraising.
Todd Kelley said, "That is not good."
The Police Protective Fund told NewsChannel5 Investigates that they're no longer giving any money to families. Instead, they say the offer a video on grieving to them and will help organize the funeral.
NewsChannel5 Investigates asked Carol Denning, the mother of deputy Brian Denning, "Would a DVD have helped you?"
"No, no," she said.
"Would having them come and help plan the funeral have helped you?"
Again, she replied, "No. We had a wonderful funeral."
Trina Scott, the widow of the Clarksville officer asked, "Why do they need money to help plan a funeral?"
The families say for the Police Protective Fund to use the deaths of their loved ones to raise money is just wrong.
Scott adds, "They died protecting you and this is the way you thank their families?"
The Police Protective Fund refused to do an interview with us, but the CEO did tell NewsChannel5 Investigates that they're now spending their money to educate people about the dangers of police work.
They could not however provide the name of a single police department in Tennessee that they're working with.
Meanwhile, police departments around the country have issued warnings about the Police Protective Fund. In fact, the Metro Police Department has one on its website right now.
The state tells NewsChannel5 Investigates that it has launched an investigation into this group.
If you are one of the people who has received a call from the Police Protective Fund, contact the state's Charitable Solicitations Division at (615) 741-2555.