By Charley Wilkison
Director of Public Affairs
Recently Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott sued an alleged law enforcement organization regarding their telemarketing claims to the general public versus what they actually did with the money. We agree with General Abbott that these folks need to be hauled into court and stopped. As General Abbott has moved to protect the best interest of all Texans, CLEAT believes that law enforcement organizations should stay far away from telemarketing and other financial scams.
CLEAT is independent, funded solely by our thousands of members across the state who can expect their union to work only for them. It’s not just a slogan or catchy phrase. It’s just the truth. The same goes when it comes to telemarketing. CLEAT doesn’t participate in any of those underhanded schemes that secretly fund some other law enforcement groups. It’s not us calling during dinner, or any other time. We don’t have auxiliary members, we don’t sell window decals, and we don’t claim that if you buy a window decal that you will somehow get out of a speeding ticket. We don’t accept government grant money either.
We believe law enforcement unions should be governed by elected, rank and file officers who set a dues structure that funds the organization. Unions should live within their means and not pester the public for money to help fund their operations budget. That would stop the need for telephone solicitation.
We also believe that telemarketing companies are the evil enablers. They help convince law enforcement groups to turn over their fundraising projects to sleazy phone room operators who take most of the money off the top. We know this rip off would end if the public truly understood that:
- 80% of the money goes to fund a for-profit telephone solicitation corporation,
- The law enforcement unions are secretly funding their operations with the rest of the take, and
- None of the funds are actually going where the public envisions them going
The phone calls from telemarketers claiming to be raising money for slain or injured law enforcement officers or their families aren’t just annoying. These are sleazy, unscrupulous attempts to prey on the emotions of decent Texans who sincerely believe the heroes who risk their lives on every dangerous shift should be treated right. Texans want their officers to receive a living wage, have functioning healthcare and receive a decent retirement if they live to complete their tour of duty. It’s just wrong to prey on the good hearts of Texans and mislead them into believing they are giving money to help officers when its going for something else. In fact, if Texans knew that some of that money actually finds its way into funding some lobbying efforts they would be furious.
CLEAT was the first organization in Texas to take on the telemarketing unions in the legislature. First, we began to pass pieces of legislation that has ended the need for law enforcement officers to beg for money for the families of the fallen. Then we set out to make it illegal to raise money for law enforcement officers without proving that it went directly toward that effort.
It was CLEAT legislation that raised the in-the-line-of-duty death benefit to the current $250,000 that mirrors the federal benefit. We are proud to have worked to pass laws that have given fallen officer’s children free college tuition at any state university. Just this last session, we passed bills to ensure that surviving families continue to receive coverage for affordable health insurance. Years ago we worked to pass legislation to give an income to officers who become completely disabled because of a criminal act. These are but a few of the measures we have developed and shepherded through the legislature to stop officers and their surviving families from being mistreated or driven to relying on charity. CLEAT also gives an in-the-line-of-duty death benefit that is funded by our members.
We were successful in passing some bills and amendments that attempted to clean up telemarketing but perhaps our best effort was thrown out in federal court because other telemarketing police unions claimed their first amendment rights were violated by our law that was signed by Governor George W. Bush in 1997. In 2007 we attempted an effort to clean up the money stream of law enforcement organizations by outlawing grants for unions. The bill passed the House of Representatives with more than 100 votes but tied 4-4 in the Senate State Affairs Committee. We believed then, and still believe that law enforcement training grants and government cash should only be available to law enforcement agencies, colleges and regional police training academies.
The taxpayers and voters expect law enforcement officers to remain a cut above; they expect bravery, service, and honesty. Texas law enforcement officers are better trained, have higher standards of education, and are held to higher ethical standards than the rest of the population as they should be. It’s just part of the job. Since law enforcement officers are entrusted with the safety and wellbeing of all Texans it stands to reason the public has the right to expect the finest.
In turn, it stands to reason that the unions who represent officers and fight for their careers should not spend their time badgering elderly folks for spending money over the telephone. From the moment Cadets raise their hand and take the oath, thru all the perilous years of their lives they constantly face violence and death. As officers answer every 911 call they know their life and their career hang in the balance. Police officers deserve better than to be forced to compete for resources and attention from the union claiming to represent them.
CLEAT believes that when a citizen sees a Texas law enforcement officer they should feel confident that person represents true justice, and would give their life for it. We believe that when our employees sit at the negotiating table that the other side sees them as truly representative of our members. CLEAT attorneys daily face down the powers that be without fear and with full confidence and knowledge that the organization they represent is not tainted somehow by where its funding originates. And, whether CLEAT is lobbying local elected officials or walking the halls of the State or U.S. Capitol we are beholden only to the legitimate needs of our members.
We just want Texas to know—it’s not CLEAT calling.