In a recent letter to executives, hundreds of Microsoft employees asked the company, among other demands, to cancel its contracts with the Seattle Police Department and other law enforcement bodies, OneZero reported earlier this month. In the days following, Microsoft announced a moratorium on selling facial recognition software to police. Amazon and IBM pledged similar commitments. But the relationship between technology’s biggest companies often go much deeper than contracts and product purchases.

OneZero reviewed published research and publicly available information that reveals how these companies are intimately involved with police foundations across the country and are represented on police foundation boards of directors and donor lists. OneZero found a number of these types of partnerships in cities with a strong tech industry presence, including Seattle, San Jose, Washington, D.C., and Sacramento.

The Seattle Police Foundation cemented its relationship with Microsoft two years ago by welcoming Microsoft’s director of worldwide public safety, Kirk Arthur, onto its board of directors.

Technology companies make substantial donations to police organizations. On Thursday, corporate watchdog group LittleSis revealed a list of private-sector donors to police foundations across the country. Those donors include Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Motorola, and Viacom.

Police foundations are nonprofit organizations that are often privately run and exist to support police departments through fundraising and advocacy efforts. They also provide a controversial loophole when it comes to purchasing equipment for local law enforcement, as nonprofits aren’t accountable to the same transparency rules as public agencies. In the past, police foundations have donated thousands of surveillance cameras, spy technology such as Palantir, “Stingray” phone tracker devices, and license plate readers to police departments with little to no public knowledge. Some have even used their influence to coordinate deals between technology companies and police departments.

These same foundations have surprisingly close ties to tech companies. In Seattle, for instance, the Seattle Police Foundation cemented its relationship with Microsoft two years ago by welcoming Microsoft’s director of worldwide public safety, Kirk Arthur, onto its board of directors. While Arthur’s stated mission at Microsoft is to enhance public safety and justice, the exact nature of Arthur’s duties at the foundation are unknown. Microsoft declined to comment on the matter, and the Seattle Police Foundation did not respond to OneZero’s questions about Arthur’s role at the nonprofit.

In addition to Arthur, the Seattle Police Foundation’s board also includes Christopher Ellis, Amazon’s corporate security manager (Ellis joined the board during his tenure as director of security for the Seattle Mariners). Amazon declined to comment on the record for this story.

Rod Diefendorf, COO of venture capital analytics firm PitchBook, was on the Seattle Police Foundation’s board until earlier this month, when he resigned. PitchBook has also discontinued its monetary support for the organization, indicating that it would donate to “other organizations which better embody our intended result” such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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Microsoft, Amazon & PayPal Executives All Have Seats on the Boards of Police Foundations
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