Close

These Six Oil Companies Are Funding the Police (and Must Be Stopped!)

No racist police or polluters

by Vanessa Butterworth

October 14, 2020

It’s been five months since George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police, and a lot is still being unearthed.

It’s been five months since George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police. 

Ever since, calls to defund the police have gained traction nationwide. Bloated police budgets are being intensely scrutinized for taking desperately-needed public resources away from Black and Brown communities — those hit hardest by police violence, COVID-19, and the extreme weather we’re seeing across the country.

While keeping up the pressure on local leaders to fundamentally change how towns and cities fund police departments is important, we also need to seek out any and every person or entity contributing money to the militarization and expansion of police departments nationwide.

To truly divest from policing and invest in what keeps our communities safe, healthy, and housed, we need to follow the money.

Cue the secret funding weapon for police: police foundations.

Earlier in the year, LittleSis released a groundbreaking report outlining how over 200 police foundations in the U.S. use dark money donations from some of the world’s largest corporations and polluters including Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, Verizon, Walmart, Starbucks, Amazon, Bank of America, Target, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Waffle House, and many more to give massive amounts of funding to the nation’s biggest police departments outside of public scrutiny or budget oversight.

69% of police departments reported partnering with corporations and 46% of police departments partnered with police foundations in a 2014 survey. Some of these corporate executives even sit on police foundation boards.

Police foundations are a key space for orchestrating, normalizing, and celebrating the collaboration between corporate power and the police.

Police foundations — like massive corporations or oil companies — serve wealthy and powerful interests, not people. They partner with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets, fund policing programs, and purchase new or controversial equipment for law enforcement outside of public scrutiny or budgetary oversight, including surveillance technology, military weapons, SWAT team equipment, and other tools that terrorize Black and Brown people. They also act as free PR for police departments contributing to misconceptions about crime and the normalization of constant and growing policing while funding crime hotlines and “deputy for a day” programs that enable vigilantes to commit harm to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

In Atlanta, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, and across the country, police foundations directly support the continued hyper-surveillance of BIPOC communities and the militarization of police.

NYPD’s police foundation explicitly embraces its role of expanding policing in ways that remove public oversight. Corporations like Coca-Cola, AT&T, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Halliburton, Google, and Facebook are not only complicit — they are among police foundations’ largest backers.

But, that’s not all.

Many of the same corporations driving the climate crisis and causing atypical cancers, asthma, and other disturbing health conditions in BIPOC communities are also donors, partners, and board members for police foundations. The levels of injustice and oppression are hard to stomach.

Here’s a list of the fossil fuel and utility companies that give to police foundations.

  • Chevron has a spot on the Houston Police Foundation board, and, in the past, has partnered with the foundation to host the North American Mounted Unit Commander‘s Association Conference.
  • DTE Energy, the midwest utility giant, is a donor to the Detroit Public Safety Foundation board. DTE also has a trustee spot on the foundation’s board.
  • Marathon Petroleum, owner of a major refinery in Detroit, sits on the Detroit Public Safety Foundation board. Marathon is also a donor to the foundation.
  • The chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy is a Houston Police Foundation board member, while the CEO of Halliburton is on the foundation’s advisory board.
  • Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power is a donor to the Atlanta Police Foundation and has a board seat.
  • Energy Transfer Partners, a company that gained notoriety for its role in the Dakota Access Pipeline, is a sponsor of “Friends of the Dallas Police.”

Corporate polluters funding police foundations are an example of how climate justice and racial justice are so connected. The same elites that benefit from destroying the planet are propping up the institutions that oppress Black communities!

What’s worse is that almost all of the corporations who give to police foundations have come out with statements supporting #BlackLivesMatter.

In June, some of the same corporations released statements in support of #BlackLivesMatter — but how can they publicly support one thing and then behind closed doors take action against it? This is a particularly callous example of corporate hypocrisy!

The U.S.’s most powerful corporations should not be making decisions about how communities are run on any front.

But, here’s the thing: 

A corporation’s public image is their most valuable asset, and they don’t want to be publicly associated with racist police departments. So if environmentalists and anti-racist activists speak out, we can drive a wedge between corporate America and the police, a huge step to dismantling corporate power and police power. No corporation should profit from racist policing or polluting.

Thankfully, in the past few months, Color of Change and over 40 organizations have been pressuring corporations to divest from police foundations. Thousands of messages have been sent to various companies from people like you with amazing results. Wells Fargo has announced it will “pause” all contributions to police foundations and we’re waiting on active policy decisions from several more corporations. But we need to keep up the pressure!

Join us and call on corporations that invest in police foundations to: 

Divest immediately from police foundations and any law enforcement non-profits. 

  • Not one dime to police foundations or cops. Cancel all current and future sponsorship deals with police foundations or law enforcement non-profits, including event partnerships, participation in galas or fundraisers,  and in-kind donations of equipment, software, data, or technology. 

Refuse any positions on police foundation boards. 

  • Current employees — at all levels — who sit on a police foundation’s board should immediately step down from the board. Future employees should be banned from representing their employers on any police foundation board or in any law enforcement non-profit organization. 

A sign on a utility pole is visible near a security checkpoint in front of a Black Lives Matter message hanging on the side of the Greenpeace US building in Washington, D.C.

From coast to coast, people are awakening to the systemic racism that murdered George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and so many others.

The voices online and in the streets have been resounding — we need to change and we need to do it now. We need systems that put people first, not corporations or the wealthy. And, we need police departments to stop killing Black people.

Take action for racial justice now. Commit to holding corporations who donate to police foundations accountable for putting Black and Brown people in severe danger.

The time for defunding the police and calling out corporate-backed police foundations is right now.

Vanessa Butterworth

By Vanessa Butterworth

Vanessa currently works as the Senior Digital Strategist at Greenpeace and sits on the Rising Tide North America organizing team. Outside of paid work, she organizes with frontline groups against police brutality, gentrification, and environmental racism. Over the past ten years, she's worked on campaign, mobilization, direct action, and movement strategy across the US and Canada. She's originally from Mississauga of the New Credit Territory as known as Caledon, Ontario, but now lives in Oakland, California on Ohlone Territory.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.