Smithfield officials: No involvement in letter soliciting money for police group

Published 12:45 pm Monday, May 20, 2024

Town government had no involvement with a letter some residents reported receiving on May 14 that claims “Smithfield City Council Members need to hear from you,” according to Town Manager Michael Stallings.

The letter was actually sent by the National Police Association, Stallings said. The NPA’s website lists “standing against anti-police rhetoric” among the organization’s purposes.

The letter solicits a monetary contribution, “so we can add your name to our Quality of life Policing petition which will be presented to Smithfield City Council Members.”

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“The town is in no way associated with this mailing, or group, and did not authorize or endorse this mailing,” Stallings said.

The Smithfield Police Department, in a Facebook post, warned of a scam.

“The legitimacy of the ‘NPA’ cannot be verified; however, we know that it does not help law enforcement locally. The Town of Smithfield and the Smithfield Police Department are not associated with this mailing or group and did not authorize or endorse this mailing,” the department’s post reads.

The NPA “defends law enforcement agencies, officers, their supporters and the public using litigation, communications, activism and advocacy,” the NPA’s website states. The organization has a history of filing amicus briefs in high-profile court cases.

In 2016, the NPA filed a brief in support of qualified immunity, which shields police officers from most federal lawsuits, for Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Missouri, officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014, in response to a suit brought by a witness to the shooting, Dorian Johnson, who accused Wilson of unlawfully detaining himself and Brown. The Brown shooting spurred a resurgence of the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement, which had formed in 2013 in response to the 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida.

More recently, in 2023, NPA filed an amicus brief opposed to a voter-approved 2022 ballot question in Oregon known as Measure 114, which would have mandated a safety class and background check prior to all gun sales in that state, and would have banned the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. An Oregon circuit court judge cited the brief when ruling the law unconstitutional on Nov. 21, 2023.

The NPA, in response to a May 14 Smithfield Times’ inquiry regarding the authenticity of the letter, said by email that a statement would be provided by The Bopp Law Firm of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Attorney James Bopp, in a May 20 statement to the Times, confirmed the letter was sent by the NPA but contended it “in no way suggests that it is from any government entity or that NPA is formally affiliated with any government entity.”

“The envelope in which the Letter arrives lists no return address; instead, NPA’s address is listed on the envelope enclosed with the Letter,” Bopp said. “Far from any suggestion that the Letter is from the government, the statement above the recipient’s address on the envelope, “Smithfield City Council Members need to hear from you,” indicates that the Letter is from an entity wishing to communicate something to the City Council. The fact that there is no address listed surely dispels any notion that the reference to the City Council should be read as a return address.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 21 at 9:11 a.m. with a statement by The Bopp Law Firm confirming the letter’s authenticity.