Corporations and business groups donated more than $417,000 in cash and equipment in the last year to the Los Angeles Police Department to help pay for investigations and services that directly benefited them, records show.
The film industry helped pay for a crackdown on pirated movies. Shopping malls paid for extra traffic control, security and a tracking system able to recover cars stolen from their parking lots.
And next week, the City Council will consider accepting $50,000 from Philip Morris USA to aid an investigation into the sale and counterfeiting of the company's cigarettes.
Supporters of the practice say it helps a cash-strapped department fight crime. But some skeptics are concerned about the appearance of pay-to-play law enforcement in which the rich can afford to buy better protection than the poor.
"This runs counter to the notion that public safety is provided equally to all and not just those rich enough to afford it," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. "Our police are not a private security force, and therefore police services should be funded by the public and not private interests that stand to benefit directly."