Funding Conflicts Of Interest

When a private organization offers to bankroll a public program to fight gangs, do citizens have a right to know where the money’s coming from?

Members of the Denver City Council seem to think so.

According to news reports, an anonymous foundation has offered to give $150,000 towards a gang task force, a program to tackle criminal gangs in the metro area.

This fact lead the City Council to voice concern over possible conflicts of interest.

But this isn’t the first time a foundation has financially supported a law enforcement program, and it may not be the last.In July, Colorado Confidential reported that the Denver Police Foundation–a non-profit composed of actual members of the Denver Police Department-had paid for the “broken windows” program, an alternative policing strategy being implemented in neighborhoods around the city.

And while mainstream media is quick to point out that the foundation paid for the project, they have not reported that government records show numerous members of the police force head the foundation.

In essence, the police were intimately involved with their own program.

If the Denver Police Foundation is the anonymous donor for the gang task force, they would be paying for a program in the Denver district attorney’s office, which investigates cases and prosecutes crimes.

If the money is coming from law enforcement, there would be a clear conflict of interest, which could not only present many ethical questions, but jeopardize the work of the program.

Only time will tell the name of the actual donor, but council members are right to ask questions.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at

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