East Hampton officials issued a warning about what they called a “misleading” letter soliciting money for an alleged police and sheriff’s emergency equipment shortage.
Some area residents received a letter from a national non-profit called the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, according to a statement from Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s office, in which the Town of East Hampton and its police department warned residents “they should carefully consider whether to respond” to the solicitation.
The letter, entitled “East Hampton, New York Area Drive for America’s Police and Sheriff’s Emergency Equipment Shortage,” cited an increase in shootings of police officers and asked for monetary donations to supply police with equipment, such as bulletproof vests and body armor.
“This fund-raising effort is not affiliated with our local police. The East Hampton Town Police Department has no affiliation with the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which is based in Wichita, Kansas. Our department has not received, nor does it expect to receive, equipment donations from this group,” the supervisor’s statement said.
While David Hinners, the association’s executive director, admitted by phone Wednesday that his organization does not have any affiliation with the local police, he said nowhere in the solicitation letter does it say that the group is doing fundraising for East Hampton’s police departments, but rather the East Hampton area.
“I don’t see it as misleading,” he said by phone. However, the issue has come up before. “We’re going to look into it. We don’t want anything misconstrued at all. We work very hard to be transparent,” he said.
This year, USDSA has sent “thank you cards” and safety equipment, such as tourniquets and other blood-stopping tools, to departments elsewhere in New York, including those in Cooperstown, Village of Fishkill, Vestal Town and East Fishkill, along with cash donations to the families of fallen law enforcement officers in New York City, Sands Point, and Troy. The group has also donated belt trauma kits to Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, according to Hinners.
Asked if there is concern in East Hampton Town about cuts to the police budget given the national fiscal crisis, East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said not as of yet.
“We have some concerns about the recent announcement made by the County Executive and how that would impact our shared services and police district support funding, but the Town Supervisor has indicated he will be cautious and proactive to work on keeping our funding whole,” Sarlo said referring to Executive Steve Bellone’s announcement last week that without federal aid he will have to chop $20 million from the Suffolk County Police Department budget.
“We may have to get creative, but as of now we have had tremendous budgetary support from the Town over the recent past years, with technology and equipment upgrades approved regularly. I have worked extremely hard to maintain a balanced working operating budget and ensure our personnel and equipment needs have maintained adequate funding despite the state mandated 2% tax cap,” Sarlo said.
Sarlo said the town became aware of the letters circulating locally from the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association when a resident sent one to Town Hall.
Van Scoyoc’s warning to residents included information on the organization on CharityNavigator.org, which rates nonprofits. The association reportedly spends 88% of its revenue on fund-raising expenses, and 5.5% on the programs and services it delivers.
In a response to Van Scoyoc, Hinners disputed the veracity of those figures. He said they are “completely incorrect and are a complete a lie.” He said he has tried to no avail to get in contact with Charity Navigator to correct the numbers.
In 2018, Hinners said the organization spent $3.59 million on program services. “USDSA is dedicated to the assistance and support of law enforcement, their families, and their communities through equipment, training, End of Watch donations, scholarships, cash grants, and citizen awareness programs,” he wrote.