Cracking Down on Bogus Charities

By Jerry Brown

As part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charities, my office recently filed eight lawsuits against 53 individuals, 17 telemarketers and 12 charities that "shamelessly exploited" people's generosity and squandered millions of dollars of donations intended to help police, firefighters and veterans.

These suits are intended to permanently stop the charities' deceptive practices and require the repayment of all funds raised under false pretenses. My office is seeking involuntary dissolution of eight of the charities.

These individuals shamelessly exploited the goodwill of decent citizens trying to help police, firefighters and veterans. In point of fact, a shockingly small portion of donations went to those in need, while millions went to pay for aggressive telemarketing and bloated overhead - and in one case, to purchase a 30-foot sailboat.

These suits were filed in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and 48 other states as part of a nationwide sweep called "Operation False Charity."

In California, just as in the other participating states, the so-called charities raised millions of dollars based on false claims that donors' contributions would benefit police, firefighters and veterans organizations. But in reality, these charities rarely benefit public safety personnel. And, in most cases, 85 percent to 90 percent of donations are used to pay the fees of for-profit telemarketing firms.

Last year, I launched an investigation into 12 of the worst offenders, resulting in the eight cases filed today in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Mateo counties. It is estimated that since 2005, hundreds of thousands of Californians have been deceived by the solicitation campaigns these charities and their fundraisers have conducted.

Here are tips to avoid being the victims of charity fraud:

- If you receive an unsolicited call asking for a donation, it is most likely from a paid telemarketer who may keep a substantial part of your donation as payment of fundraising fees.

- Recognize that the words 'veterans' or 'military families' in an organization's name don't necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation.

- Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly.

- If you have any doubt about whether you have made a pledge or a contribution, check your records. If you don=t remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give.

- Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, well-established organizations.

- Ask the soliciting charity or the paid fundraiser what percentage of your donation will go towards fundraising expenses and what percentage will go towards the charity's charitable purpose.

- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by check made payable to the charity.

- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.

- Be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. You never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

There are a number of resources to obtain information about a charity. My website is a good place to start.

Use the search feature to find out if a charity and its fundraiser are registered. Review the Attorney General's Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors for additional tips. Other sites that have valuable information include:

American Institute of Philanthropy
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
Federal Trade Commission

Jerry Brown is Attorney General of California.


By Francisco J. Hernandez

How about truth, integrity and consistency in news reporting?

I’ve lived in San Jose for all 30 years of my life. Born, educated and employed in San Jose. I’ve enjoyed living here (with some ups and downs) and have no immediate plans to leave. In my 30 years, I’ve read thousands and thousands of San Jose Mercury News articles spanning the Knight-Ridder era to the brief McClatchy ownership to the current MediaNews (aka Bay Area News Group) ownership. There have been excellent news stories and stories about the news. Lately though I’ve noticed a lot more of the latter.

I don’t know what it is but over the last three years I’ve seen a rise in articles that are biased against San Jose police. While there have been officers “spotlighted” for their accomplishments on and off duty (one recent article was about two officers taking enforcement action 20,000 feet in the air), the majority of the stories have been negative (use of force, public intoxication, retirement benefits, etc). The overwhelming majority of negative stories are about racial profiling.

I find it insulting when people make racial accusations as soon as they are stopped. People never pause to think, “Why is this officer stopping me? Was I supposed to stop back there? Is my music too loud?” or maybe, “Is my tail light out… again? I thought I sent in my registration yesterday… Oh crap, here’s the envelope…” Nope, some people jump straight to the racial difference between us. I’ve heard the “You only stopped me ‘cause I’m (insert non-white race)!” rationale more than I care to say. (The fact that I’m Hispanic doesn’t seem to matter because, in their eyes, I’m no longer Hispanic once I put on the uniform.)

To those who have used that rationale or plan to continue using it, all I have to say is, “Oh really?” I guess it doesn’t matter that I was behind you when you ran that red light or rolled through that stop sign. Or that I could hear and feel your music from half a city block away. Or that I noticed your tail lights are out or your vehicle registration is expired. Or that I can see that you are driving an otherwise clean car that happens to have “limo-tint” on all windows. You insist that I stopped you only because you are (insert non-white race), even though I can’t see inside your car and was behind you the entire time. As I walk up to your car, I only know that there is one person (you, the driver) in the car. I don’t know who else is in there or if they have a gun pointed at my head since the windows are tinted.

I’ve been in law enforcement for seven and a half years with the first five and a half spent on patrol, and I can tell you that the San Jose Police Department employs a diverse group of officers. Our officers are Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, African-American, Middle Eastern. You name it, we have it, from Sergeants to Lieutenants, Captains to former Chiefs of Police. To say that SJPD is plagued with officers who enforce the law based solely on a person’s real or perceived ethnicity, as the Mercury News seems to suggest, is a complete insult. In this case, the Mercury News is also neglecting to acknowledge its own past reports.

In February 2007, the Mercury News published a front-page article about the perceived racial profiling behavior of the SJPD. The article was seven months in the making. What was the Mercury News’ conclusion? Its own reporters found no evidence of racial profiling by SJPD. NONE!

Don’t believe me? Here’s a word-for-word excerpt from the article:

“To move beyond the rhetoric, Mercury News Reporters fanned out across downtown on selected weekends during a seven-month-period, delving into the city’s nightlife from the perspectives of the police, clubs, and customers. In more than 100 hours on the streets, they did not witness racial profiling.”

- James Hohmann, Rodney Foo, Marian Liu and Leslie Griffy
San Jose Mercury News, February 17, 2007

So, what gives? Why does the Mercury News continue to publish stories about racist cops intimidating the public (i.e. minorities)? Why do they continue to suggest that the high number of minorities arrested by SJPD is a problem of racial profiling?

Apparently, the Mercury News has forgotten what its own people have seen (or in this case, not seen) with regards to the current accusations against the San Jose Police Department.

Francisco J. Hernandez is a San Jose Police Officer.

Ask Ed

Anyone who follows Protect San Jose knows Ed Rast is good with numbers, especially when it comes to public safety. In his regular Tuesday column, he's examined staffing imbalances between local agencies, wasteful spending at City Hall, and methods for modernizing the San Jose Police Department to save money and ensure the safety of our streets and neighborhoods.

Now, Ed wants to open up a dialogue with you, the reader. This is your chance to ask him all those questions that have been nagging at you...

What's the most wasteful spending project in San Jose?

What are the factors that determine "America's Safest Big City"?

Where do all these taxes and fees end up?

These are just a few examples. We encourage to post your own questions in the comments below.

Stay safe.

Protecting the Horse Mounted Unit

By Denelle Fedor

The San Jose Mounted Unit is an integral component of the San Jose Police Department.

The unit was created in 1986 by Police Chief Joe McNamara, who came from the biggest city in the United States; New York City. Chief McNamara served 15 years as San Jose’s Police Chief. He is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, has authored numerous books on policing and is regarded and recognized nationally as an expert in criminal justice, police technology and management systems, crime prevention, and international drug policies.

With Chief McNamara’s experience in working in a big city, not a small town, he understood the importance that a horse patrol would bring to San Jose. As a result, he created a task force of private citizens to help establish the unit. This group raised $70,000 to help pay the costs, making the unit one of, if not, the first public-private partnerships in
San Jose.

Although every Police Chief since McNamara has supported horse patrol, city management proposed eliminating police officers on horseback this year by stating the city could save $1.4 million if the unit was cut. However, management’s million dollar number was misleading. The actual cost of the unit is approximately $230, 000. The1.4 million is the compensation for the eight officers who patrol on horseback. Therefore, the only way management could save 1.4 million is if they eliminated police positions, which has nothing to do with mounted unit. They should have stated they were eliminating police positions instead of using the mounted unit as a ploy.

Mayor Chuck Reed kept his commitment to public safety and specifically to horse patrol by directing management to enter into an agreement with the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit who agreed to pay the cost of the unit for the 2010-2011 budget year, making the unit a cost-effective public-private partnership.

As a result, the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit will be embarking on a campaign called “Pony Up, San Jose” which will officially launch in August 2009. With a million people in San Jose, all we need is $1 from two hundred and thirty thousand of them. Spread the word and send your dollars to Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit PO Box 7408 San Jose, CA 95150-6511 or visit our website.

In my opinion, San Jose has moved away from community policing since McNamara’s retirement. However, under Chief Davis, San Jose is trying to bring it back. The new Captain for the Downtown nightlife served as a mounted unit officer. Perhaps the unit will be utilized more in the Downtown. We can only hope.

When you have former Vice Mayors Cindy Chavez and Pat Dando along with Tom Martin, General Manager for Santana Row, Scott Knies, President of the Downtown Association, and thousands of business owners and residents in San Jose who support the mounted unit, then perhaps these voices should serve as testament that the Mounted Unit is important and should remain intact.

Denelle Fedor is President & Founder of the non-profit Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit ( She has worked for Councilmembers Pat Dando and Ken Yeager and currently serves as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Bringing Silicon Valley Innovation to Sacramento

By Chris Kelly

When I was growing up in San Jose, it was the safest big city in America. I know that the SJPOA is dedicated to restoring that designation, and that you’re going to need lots of help in these tough times. I promise to stand with you when I’m Attorney General.

We need innovative solutions from Sacramento to get out of the $26 billion budget mess, but instead we get schemes to release over 20,000 felons from state prison – not to mention the attempt to seize local government funds that may result in cuts for your department.

The prison release plan is supposed to save $1.2 billion, but that’s just accounting trickery. In fact, a Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study finds that nearly 70% of early-released inmates are rearrested within three years, 20% of them for violent crime. That will mean more than $3 billion in increased costs from crime while causing serious harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

I've spoken to police chiefs, law enforcement groups and civic associations throughout California about the issue, and they're deeply worried about the crime wave this scheme will unleash. It will be hard enough to make San Jose a safer community in tough economic times without the problems caused by early release.

I know that we need to solve the budget crisis. But this misguided early release plan would do far more harm than good, and I need your help to stop it.

To organize against schemes like this, I’ve started the cause Protect California Communities on Facebook, which is already helping avoid the worst forms of early release. But the plan keeps coming back. Please join me at, and follow the activism instructions to help us beat it back again.

Over the last four years, as Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy at Facebook, I’ve been working with Attorneys General from across the nation and law enforcement across the world to build a safer and more trusted Internet for our more than 250 million customers.

Working together, I know we can bring the innovation of Silicon Valley to Sacramento and develop real, honest solutions to get California moving again.

Chris Kelly is Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy for Facebook and a candidate for Attorney General of California. He wrote this article for Protect San Jose.

Preventing the Break-In

By Beat Cop

Part two of a three-part series

I just added a new “friend” on Facebook. I don’t know this person, but two of my friends do, so why not, right?

Of course, I forget for the moment that I’ve used this excuse to add half the friends I already have. I click “What’s on your mind?” and enter a status update for all my digital friends to enjoy. Something witty... I know, talk about the New York trip... “Beat Cop is looking forward to his trip to NYC on Monday.”

Sadly this innocent act is just an example of one of the increasing burglary opportunities we’ve seen. Yes, the criminal I just added to my “social network” reads my update as, “Beat Cop is leaving town on Monday, I can’t wait to break his window, go in his house, go through his stuff, and steal whatever looks good.”

Far fetched or not, that scenario is rearing it’s ugly head too often lately. After reading the last Beat Cop article, "Nightmare On My Street," you learned that a reduction in police staffing has led to an increase of residential burglaries in our city. This week we will look at burglary prevention. We will explore ways all of us can contribute in order to prevent burglaries from occurring as well as learn ways to catch the crooks coming into our homes. In part three we will look at ways to get the cuffs onto those who prey on residents while they are away from their homes.

Burglary is a crime that is preventable even when you are not home. Burglars are in general cowardly and lazy. Most often they look for easy targets and quick loot. After succeeding with an easy break in, a burglar will go on the prowl for the next easy target, often in the same area/neighborhood.

I used the look up calls for service in your area link on the and saw that there were 94 burglaries last week in San Jose, with four of them occurring in my small neighborhood alone. Here are some of the top ways to prevent burglaries in your home and your neighborhood:

1. Don’t showboat.

Leaving valuables out in your frontyard or a new flat screen TV in plain sight from the road, can unwittingly lure thieves onto your property just like a frantic bargain hunter is lured to a flea market. The thief is always out shopping for loot. Don’t make it easy for them by letting them know what you have. Dont’ leave your garage door open for extended periods of time.

2. Don’t put up the “Out for Lunch” or “On Vacation” sign.

Burglars only want to break into your home when they know you are not there. Protect yourself by creating the illusion you are home even when you are not. Leave a radio or TV on. Buy a ten dollar timer from your local hardware store and have lamps on at night when you are gone (energy efficient florescent bulbs of course). Stop mail and newspaper subscriptions while on vacation.

3. Lock your doors and windows.

I once asked a burglar why he chose the house he did. His response was, he didn’t, it chose him. After tugging on four or five doors/windows in the neighborhood he went with the one that was open. Most home breakins are more like “walkins” requiring very little force or none at all. Invest in quality deadbolts and locks. Use wood or steel dowels in sliding doors and windows. Don’t forget about upstairs windows. It’s not hard for a burglar to climb up an air conditioning unit or a left out ladder and enter your second story window. Burglars know to look under the front mat for a hide-a-key. Leaving your spare house key in common hiding places is like leaving milk and cookies out for neighborhood thieves. Lock it up.

4. Make your yard welcoming to guests not thieves.

Keep the bushes and trees trimmed near your windows. Clutter and large items offer concealment and a chance to pry a window open in privacy. Make use of motion lights and other outdoor lighting. A well maintained yard brings more friends over and keeps more crooks out.

5. Get to know your neighbors.

Knowing who belongs in your neighborhood, will help you to recognize those who don’t. Take notice of suspicious persons and note license plates and vehicle descriptions. Take a proactive approach to keeping yourself safe and let the police help keep predators out of your neighborhood. SJPD is available to help with this. Gather a group of ten neighbors and make arrangements for a crime prevention specialist to meet with your group. You can contact the SJPD crime prevention unit at (408) 277-4133 or log on to the SJPD website.

6. Use an alarm system.

A well maintained residential alarm system can make a burglar passup your house. Monitored systems are great and alert the police of a breakin when you are not home. A system that does not have a paid monitoring service can be very effective as well. Inexpensive systems are available that make that same high pitch noise as the expensive ones and scare the burglar off just the same. An alarm sign strategically placed in your yard might be all it takes to keep the crook moving along.

The reality is that some burglaries will still occur despite our best efforts made at preventing them. Taking the time to implement as many preventative measures as possible can help to keep you safe. In part three we will continue to work together to catch crooks with efforts taken before a breakin and after. Stay tuned and help San Jose Police Officers as they work to return San Jose to being the safest big city in America.

Proudly serving you,
Your Beat Cop

I Didn't Click It

By Kathleen Flynn

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis in my hands so putting on my seat belt isn’t easy. I was in the parking lot struggling to get mine on. I couldn’t so I just drove away. I was merging onto the freeway when sure enough I saw a Police Officer pulling up behind me red, white, and blue lights on, and telling me over a speaker to pull over. I knew I was in the wrong and realized I’d just have to suck it up and accept the consequences of my ignorant decision not to click it.

The Officer walked up to my window and immediately began lecturing me on how many fatalities occur everyday due to the lack of wearing a seat belt. He went into great detail about how many people would have survived had they just chosen to click it. This Officer wasn’t speaking to me in a calm way either. He was angry, disgusted, and quite honestly I was pretty irritated with him for his tone. He demanded my license and registration and huffed off to his car.

As I watched him in my rear view mirror, I began to think about what he had just told me. I began to realize he wasn’t angry so much as he was concerned about my safety. He returned to my car he gave me a ticket, and explained that he had just returned from a fatal car crash. He said he didn’t want to see that happen to me. My irritation about getting a ticket, and an attitude from him dissolved into compassion. He was only human and was probably pretty shaken up by what he had just seen.

I sincerely thanked him for caring about my safety. He looked stunned for a moment and walked away. To my surprise, he turned around and came back. He looked at me and in a soft, respectful voice asked me if I knew how to get back on the freeway. I said yes, but he followed me anyway to make sure I got back on safely.

On my drive home I reflected on how little we know about what Officers experience everyday. I began thinking about being on the parking patrol at my condo complex. Residents yelled at me when I asked them to move their car off the red curb, even though I explained the need to keep it clear in case of fire. I began to feel real compassion and gratitude toward that Officer.

So Officer if you are reading this thanks for stopping me that day. Painful hands or not, I have never gotten into the car without a seat belt since. Readers, when stopped by Police try to remember that Officer you want to get an attitude with might have just left a horrific crime, or accident. Give him/her a break because that Officer might be the one who keeps your son, daughter, or mother out of harm’s way.

To all of you Officers, thank you for your service and stay safe!

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.

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