‘Cops‘ phone scam does little to benefit police or prevent tickets
A police decal on your car may cause an officer to be lenient on moving violations (which normally run $65 $115 dollars), said a state trooper at the post in Traverse City, though he claimed to not pay much attention to the stickers himself.
I called the State Police after receiving a very official sounding call from the Police Officers Association of Michigan (despite the fact that I‘ve been asked to be put on the no-call list.)
After letting me know that the call would be recorded for my protection, the man asked:
“Now -- Ms. Melzer -- in difficult times such as these, do you think it is important to support the police?“
And as the recording device rolled, he waited, apparently for a yes or no answer.
This guy wanted to sign me up to express my support for the police through purchase of a gold or silver decal for $35 or $25. Once I receive my sticker in the mail, he said, I should immediately place it on the rear window of my car or the front door of my home.
What is this organization, I wondered, and is it worth supporting?
“Would this sticker keep me from getting pulled over?“ I asked.
“We can‘t promise that,“ he said with strange, dramatic menacing flare. At this point he noted that he was not a policeman but a telemarketer.
Still, he intimated that it was somehow in my interest to make public my support for the police.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
I wondered how many people were sitting home wondering how to best express their support for the police.
“How are they going to use the money?“ I asked.
He claimed the money would be used for scholarships for aspiring police officers, death benefits, improving education, legal support for officers and (he rustled through some papers) to pay the costs of fundraising.
But wait -- aren‘t my taxes enough to support the police? Are times really so hard that the police have to come to me for education funding?
Do the local police really stand to benefit?
I checked the POAM website and found reports of a recent convention which featured fishing, cigar smoking and a pub crawl.
The website also provided an informative report on lobbying efforts to allow police officers to carry concealed weapons while off duty and instructions on how to use the Fifth Amendment.
I called the POAM to see what services they were providing to local officers and was transferred to an extremely confident sounding guy on a speaker-phone.
The man laughed when I told him a state trooper had mentioned the sticker might cause lenience.
“We can‘t make any promises,“ he said, and then he laughed some more.
He agreed that the money didn‘t come directly back to the community but pointed out that a Benzie County Sheriff‘s Deputy had recently received a loyalty award.
I called the Benzie Sheriff‘s department hoping I could talk with the award winning deputy and that he could explain why I should consider spend $35 on a police sticker.
I was transferred to Sheriff Robert Blank who told me that the statewide Sheriffs Association recommends against giving money to any phone solicitor.
A spokeswoman for the City Police said the same thing.
I told her about the idea that the sticker could save money on tickets.
“I‘m sorry they misled you,“ she said, “but that is what they do.“
Finally I got a hold of the local POAM business agent, Patrick Spidell.
“The dirty little secret is that we hire a company to do the fundraising and that we only get something like 20% of the money that they raise.“
Spidell said he was surprised to hear that a state trooper claimed officers might be lenient when it comes to cars with stickers.
“The State Police don‘t honor the sticker,“ he said (leaving me to wonder what ‘honor‘ means in this situation and which divisions of police do honor the
Spidell said he receives plenty of calls from people who ask if the POAM is a legitimate organization or complain that the fundraisers were pushy.
These people work on commission, he explained, and sometimes come on very strong.
Spidell said he thinks it‘s a shame that people don‘t understand more about how phone solicitations work. He thinks people should be smarter about their charitable
If you are really interested in showing your support for the local police, said Spidell, just call them up, find out what kind of programs they are running and
give your money directly to them.