You are hereNaked Capitalism: Is JP Morgan Getting a Good Return on $4.6 Million "Gift" to New York City Police?

Naked Capitalism: Is JP Morgan Getting a Good Return on $4.6 Million "Gift" to New York City Police?

October 2, 2011- No matter how you look at this development, it does not smell right. From JP Morgan’s website, hat tip Lisa Epstein:

JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing “profound gratitude” for the company’s donation.

“These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”

Perhaps I remember too much of the scruffy and not exactly safe New York City of the 1980s, where getting your wallet pinched was a pretty regular occurrence. My perception has been that police-related charities have relied overmuch on the never-stated notion that if you didn’t donate, you might not get the speediest response if you needed help. As a mere apartment-dweller, I can’t imagine that anyone could scan incoming 911 calls against a priority list. But the flip side is if I owned a retail store and thought the beat police would keep an extra eye on it if I gave to a police charity, it would seem like an awfully cheap form of insurance.

But what, pray tell, is this about? The JPM money is going directly from the foundation to the NYPD proper, not to, say, cops injured in the course of duty or police widows and orphans. But that is how the NYPD Police Foundation works. From its website:

The New York City Police Foundation, Inc. was established in 1971 by business and civic leaders as an independent, non-profit organization to promote excellence in the NYPD and improve public safety in New York City.

The Police Foundation supports programs designed to help the NYPD keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, strategies and training.

The New York City Police Foundation:

Provides resources that are not readily available through other means – to date over $100 million has been invested in 400+ innovative NYPD programs;

Serves as a vehicle for tax-exempt gifts and grants from individuals, businesses, and philanthropies;

Is the first municipal foundation of its kind in the country, and serves as a model for similar organizations in other cities;

Is the only organization authorized to raise funds on behalf of the NYPD and;

Does not solicit by telephone or use telemarketers.

The Police Foundation works closely with the Police Commissioner to develop a strategic program agenda. The Foundation encourages and supports NYPD programs in two main areas:

Projects, research studies, and equipment to improve the effectiveness of police activities; and

Education, training and skill development to strengthen the partnership between the police and the public.

Given when the NYC Police Foundation was formed, it looked to have been a desperate move during New York City’s fiscal crisis (remember the infamous headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”?) When I moved to the city in 1981, pretty much everyone I knew who lived in a non-doorman building had suffered a break-in. Guiliani’s reputation was built on cleaning up a perceived-to-be unsafe city (which he did by hiring William Bratton). Even in the later 1980s, when I lived in a townhouse on 69th between Park and Madison (translation: good neighborhood), I’d be the first out of the building in the AM. The inner door to the townhouse was locked, the outer one was closed but unlocked. I’d always have to navigate my way out carefully so as not to waken the homeless person sleeping in the vestibule.

So while this effort to supplement taxpayer funding has a certain logic, it raises the nasty specter of favoritism, that if private funding were to become a significant part of the Police Department’s total budget, it would understandably give priority to its patrons.

And look at the magnitude of the JP Morgan “gift”. The Foundation has been in existence for 40 years. If you assume that the $100 million it has received over that time is likely to mean “not much over $100 million” this contribution could easily be 3-4% of the total the Foundation have ever received.

Now readers can point out that this gift is bupkis relative to the budget of the police department, which is close to $4 billion. But looking at it on a mathematical basis likely misses the incentives at work. Dimon is one of the most powerful and connected corporate leaders in Gotham City. If he thinks the police donation was worthwhile, he might encourage other bank and big company CEOs to make large donations.

And what sort of benefits might JPM get? It is unlikely that there would be anything as crass as an explicit quid pro quo. But it certainly is useful to be confident that the police are on your side, say if an executive or worse an entire desk is caught in a sex or drugs scandal. Recall that Charles Ferguson in Inside Job alleged that the use of hookers is pervasive on Wall Street (duh) and is invoiced to the banks.



Backbone Campaign
Liberty Tree
Progressive Democrats of America
Peoples Email Network
Justice Through Music
Locust Fork Journal
Berkeley Fellowship UU\'s Social Justice Committee
The Smirking Chimp
Progressive Democrats Sonoma County
Center for Media and Democracy
Chelsea Neighbors United
Atlanta Progressive News
Yes Men
No Nukes North