America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#18: United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association

Until his death in April 2010, Stephen Van Dyke ran United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association with his wife, Judy. The charity said its purpose was to train officers, give financial aid to the families of fallen officers and donate equipment to rural law enforcement agencies.

Under the Van Dykes, USDSA was disciplined by at least three states. In 2000, Texas fined the charity $110,000 in penalties and costs after accusing it of misleading donors. In 2002, Florida fined it $1,000 for failing to register to solicit. In 2009, Kentucky levied a penalty of $101,500 for what regulators called deceptive fundraising practices.

The Van Dykes initially raised money through advertising sales in a magazine they produced for USDSA. In 2005, they began using professional solicitors. Over the next five years, the group raised $23 million. The fundraisers kept 70 percent. The charity, which said it had more than 20 employees when Van Dyke was in charge, spent more than $7.6 million on salaries. Less than $135,000 was spent on financial assistance for families or equipment grants to departments during this period.

Thomas Palma, the new president of USDSA, moved the charity from Texas to Virginia. He did not return numerous phone calls or respond to a certified letter seeking comment. The charity's latest IRS filings show it is still dependent on professional fundraisers. Its website is a work-in-progress, with links to training videos, grant applications and donations "coming soon."

Last year Oregon fined USDSA for misrepresentation.

Stephen Van Dyke's obituary described how he had devoted his "career and heart" to USDSA and a second charity the couple started, United States Municipal Police Organization. "Through his efforts, immeasurable officers' lives were saved and he granted relief to hundreds of officers in need," said the obituary published in the Houston Chronicle.

Memorial donations, it said, could be sent to a local leukemia charity.

In their own words: the Charity's mission

The activities of the United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association, a non profit county law enforcement support organization, will be to: Educate and train county law enforcement officers in the use of lethal force, realistic impact weapons defense and ground confrontation management. This activity will comprise approximately 50% of our time. Provide needed law enforcement equipment; free of charge, to under funded county law enforcement agencies, to be made possible through government grants and charitable contributions from the general and corporate public. This activity will comprise approximately 25% of our time. Provide financial and economic aid to the families of officers killed in the line of duty who are now without a breadwinner and in economic crisis. This activity will comprise approximately 15% of our time. Provide information on law enforcement trends and current events through the publication of the "deputy sheriff magazine."" This activity will comprise approximately 10% of our time."

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State

United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah 6 Consent/settlement, Fine/penalties, Permit denied $212,500

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
raised by
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
totals to
2012 pdf $2,560,232 $1,952,573 $607,659 $39,797 $65,500 2.56% $749,521
2010 pdf $5,147,853 $4,645,009 $502,844 $1,515,377 $75,170 1.46% $990,851
2008 pdf $4,733,164 $4,175,285 $557,879 $1,793,029 $18,452 0.39% $1,869,015
2007 pdf $5,642,392 $3,301,494 $2,340,898 $1,804,090 $30,750 0.54% $1,641,165
2006 pdf $4,061,116 $1,937,734 $2,123,382 $1,305,473 $3,000 0.07% $1,083,876
2005 pdf $3,491,631 $1,871,366 $1,620,265 $1,190,119 $4,000 0.11% $658,429
zTOTALS $25,636,388 $17,883,461 $7,752,927 $7,647,885 $196,872 0.8% $6,992,857

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $823,645 $788,877 $34,768 4.20% fundraising
2008 Courtesy Call $3,402,340 $2,962,793 $439,547 12.90% fundraising
2008 Newport Creative Communications $507,179 $423,615 $83,564 16.50% fundraising
2010 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $1,925,030 $1,856,941 $68,089 3.54% fundraising
2010 Newport Creative Communications $362,526 $317,602 $44,924 12.39% fundraising
2010 Courtesy Call $2,756,324 $2,377,531 $378,793 13.74% fundraising
2010 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $103,973 $92,935 $11,038 10.62% fundraising
2011 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $2,732 $3,096 $-364 -13.30% fundraising
2011 Newport Creative Communications $100,630 $90,482 $10,148 10.10% fundraising
2011 Courtesy Call $114,612 $99,941 $14,671 12.80% fundraising
2011 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $1,894,292 $156,025 $1,738,267 91.80% fundraising

Who got direct cash aid

Year Recipient Cash received Location
2010 Membership Relief Fund (Money Provided To A Members Appointed Beneficiary If The Member Is Killed In The Line Of Duty) $11,250
2010 Equipment Bought And Awarded To Departments That Are In Need (Typically In The Form Of Bulletproof Vests, Camcorders And General Officer Safety Items) $63,920