Today, the National Police Association announced the filing of a complaint for defamation against the City of Trenton, Michigan, and two of its police officers. The suit arises from false statements on social media and in media interviews.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that their “Fake News” allegations libeled the National Police Association by falsely branding its fundraising letter fraudulent.
In early 2019, the National Police Association, sent fundraising letters to residents of the City of Trenton (among others) as part of its annual national fundraising campaign. After the letters were sent, at least one Trenton resident contacted the Trenton Police Department to inquire about the National Police Association.
It is an uncontroverted fact that the fundraising letters were clearly titled 2019 Trenton Area Annual Fund Drive, did not contain any references to the Trenton Police Department, and did not state that donations would be distributed to either the city or the police department.
Despite those uncontroverted facts on or about February 28, 2019 the Trenton Police Department posted a message on its Facebook page alongside an edited photo of a fundraising letter sent by the National Police Association to a Trenton resident, with the words “SCAM ALERT!” pasted in red ink across the front. The accompanying Facebook post stated in part: “Warning to residents! You may be receiving this in the mail. It is a request for money from the “National Police Association.” They are using the Trenton Police and “Trenton Area” in the donation line.”
Further, the Trenton Police Department was subsequently contacted by the Indianapolis Star and other news outlets regarding the fundraising letter. In response, Todd Scheffler, in his capacity as Trenton Police Chief, commented to the Indianapolis Star that the National Police Association, sent letters to Trenton residents claiming to raise money for local police, but that his department has never received any funds. These comments were also published in a separate news article which appeared in the South Bend Tribune on March 18, 2019.
Additionally, Mike Hawkins, in his capacity as Trenton Police Lieutenant, also commented to the Indianapolis Star and other news outlets regarding the National Police Association’s annual fundraising letters, stating: “I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is this, using our name and our police department to raise funds? Get out of here.”
All of this despite the fact that at no time has the National Police Association ever conveyed that it is affiliated with either the City of Trenton or Trenton Police Department. Likewise, at no time has the National Police Association ever conveyed to others that any funds which it receives as part of its annual fundraising campaign are paid to the City of Trenton or Trenton Police Department.
Proof that it is an uncontroverted fact that the fundraising letters did not contain any references to the Trenton Police Department, and did not state that donations would be distributed to either the city or the police department was provided by way of the letter itself being published on the Facebook page of the Trenton Police Department, the Indianapolis Star, and subsequent media outlets.
The letter speaks for itself in not conveying it is affiliated with either the City of Trenton or Trenton Police Department. Likewise, as shown by its publication, at no time did the letter convey to others that any funds received as part of its annual fundraising campaign are paid to the City of Trenton or Trenton Police Department.
The false accusations and defamatory remarks made by Todd Scheffler and Mike Hawkins published by the Indianapolis Star in a story written by James Briggs and Ryan Martin, other media outlets and the duplicitous statements disseminated to the public over social media by the City of Trenton through its Police Department, wrongly accused the National Police Association, of unethical, dishonest, and/or criminal behavior.
Due to the internet’s permanence—negative, false and defamatory articles and headlines, having once been created, will never stop appearing upon a Google search. The false accusations against the National Police Association amount to perpetual reputational harm.
The National Police Association will employ every lawful remedy to mitigate the harm caused by every fake news attack. While suing a municipality and its police officers was not an easy decision to make for an organization founded to assist law enforcement, among the laws the National Police Association supports enforcing, are those meant to protect it from fake news attacks.
The National Police Association is represented by Jan Jeffrey Rubinstein of the Rubinstein Law Firm. The complaint, National Police Association, et al. v City of Trenton, et al., was filed in the Wayne County Michigan Circuit Court, Case No. 19-008837-CZ.