The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is an organization in the United States for members of the law enforcement community. Officially, the organization is focused on service, but it acts more like a labor union, protecting the interests of American law enforcement officers while also advocating for safer communities. In order to join the FOP, someone must be able to demonstrate that he or she is a sworn law enforcement officer.
This organization was founded in 1915 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This time was a period of immense stress for members of law enforcement, as they worked long hours and received minimal pay and few labor protections. The organization was established to serve as a labor union, but the term “union” was avoided as the Fraternal Order of Police did not want to become associated with the stigma which some people attached to labor unions. The organization continues to grow each year, and it has a great deal of legal and social clout.
Family members of police officers can join the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, while people who support law enforcement in general may choose to belong to the Fraternal Order of Police Associates, an organization open to civilians, business owners, and other community members. All three organizations speak for people who serve in the law enforcement community, and work to promote the interests of law enforcement in communities all over the United States. Over 300,000 law enforcement officers belong to the FOP.
The organization includes a Grand Lodge and 2,100 local chapters known as lodges. The group offers legal consulting, legal defense for law enforcement officers, labor representation, and lobbying of lawmakers on the National and State level. The FOP also sponsors numerous charities, holds scholarship competitions for people who want to enter the law enforcement community, organizes memorials for deceased law enforcement officers, and sponsors training for members of the law enforcement community.
Each lodge chooses which services to offer independently, selecting the services which best meet the needs of its members. The lodges can take advantage of the expertise of the Grand Lodge, and they may work with neighboring lodges and communities on various projects. Especially in situations where the FOP is lobbying on a labor issue, lodges may band together to support a particular bill, ballot initiative, or change in policy which will promote police welfare.
Citizens should be aware that official communications from the Fraternal Order of Police will be marked with the organization's blue and gold five pointed star, and that the FOP generally does not solicit donations over the telephone. If a citizen receives a call from someone claiming to represent the FOP, he or she should report the incident to the local lodge or police station. Local lodges will also happily accept donations from members of the community.