JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - JULY 29 UPDATE: A Greene County Judge ruled in district court that Back the Blue founder John Shipman is to pay a little over half the original lawsuit claim.
Custom Stitch and Print owner Dane Adams sued Shipman for $4,500 in debt and unpaid Black the Blue T-shirt orders.
The judge ruled Shipman to only pay $2,800 of that claim.
Shipman has 30 days to appeal the ruling is he would like,
A Jonesboro officer promoting Back the Blue is facing a lawsuit.
According to a lawsuit filed in Paragould District Court, the owner of Custom Stitch & Print, Dane Adams, is suing Jonesboro Officer John Shipman for debt and refusal to pay the amount owed.
The lawsuit states Shipman owes Adams $4,500 for T-shirt orders that were filled but never paid for.
Shipman has sold several Back the Blue T-shirts in different retail locations and schools.
Back the Blue in Jonesboro is not a non-profit organization.
"When Officer Shipman started this program we knew he didn't have a non-profit organization," Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliot said. "It was just something he did on a whim because there were people who had needs in the community. So he found a way to help through T-shirt sales and stuff so he could turn around and use those proceeds for the community."
Elliott said while the department supports backing law enforcement, they are not affiliated with the Back the Blue organization.
"This is a private citizen doing this on his off time to show support for the department," Elliott said. "We, of course, support Back the Blue, we always support our fellow officers, but we are not affiliated with Officer Shipman and his business."
Elliott told Region 8 News this lawsuit does not have any effect on Shipman as an officer at this moment.
"Just because this came out does not mean what he is doing is any different," Elliot said. "He is supporting his co-workers and using some of the proceeds to help some individuals. Just getting the word out alone is great and the community has shown their support."
Elliott said Shipman did fundraising for Back the Blue on his own time as a citizen, not as a Jonesboro police officer.
He said Shipman might have helped community members with Back the Blue proceeds while he was on duty, but he has not violated any department policy.
"He encounters people on the street during his patrol activities day to day and there are times he has encountered people and helped them out and I am sure some of the proceeds from Back the Blue helped them out too," Elliott said.
Elliott said if any violations do come to light they will look into it, but for now, he only sees one of his officers helping the community.
"If it comes up, we will look at it but right now he's helping out the community members in need," Elliott said.
Region 8 News has reached out to Officer Shipman by phone and online but has not received any comment.
Since the lawsuit was filed, another law enforcement support organization, Craighead County Law Enforcement Association (CCLEA), has come out saying where their money is going and it is not with Back the Blue.
"This doesn't benefit our members, this is citizen-based, this is a group of people in the community who are concerned with things going on in the city or the county who want to have a voice as a community to support law enforcement," Heather Talley with CCLEA said.
Talley said she has received several messages with people concerned their money is not going towards the mission of helping officers.
Talley said while CCLEA and Back the Blue have similar missions, they are separate organizations.
"Overall yes the missions are the same to support our law enforcement officers but when you look at the break down of the organizations than it is a little bit different," Talley said.
Talley also said CCLEA is working to become a non-profit organization.
"We are in the legal process on how we need to go about setting up this up the right way to make sure that it is a 501c3 and that it is something that benefits all of Craighead County," Talley said.
She told Region 8 News being non-profit is important in her opinion.
"This will be a non-profit and this is something that is led by citizens of Craighead County verses led by an individual that is extending those efforts beyond the city and the county," Talley said. "Because when people are offering whether it is their services, their time, their talent or their resources you want to make sure there is something in writing stating you are a non-profit organization for tax purposes because that individual donates to you as an organization as a tax write off. "
Talley said members of CCLEA will have member dues when they become non-profit and those dues will help support fundraising events.
The fundraisers and event proceeds will then go directly to law enforcement officials and their families in need.
Chief Elliott said Back the Blue is not something new. He said the idea has been around for years and in several different communities.
"Back the Blue is a national initiative that has been going on for years," Elliot said. "It shows support for law enforcement by communities all over the country and Canada. If you go to Google and look up Back the Blue there are over 2 million hits for it, so this was not a new thing started here in Jonesboro, it is ongoing and has always been a phrase."
The Fraternal Order of Police President Nathan Coleman also released a statement saying while they always support law enforcement, they are not directly affiliated with Back the Blue either.
Statement from Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8 President Nathan Coleman:
"Today there was disheartening news on the front page of the Jonesboro Sun. The Jonesboro FOP will refrain from any comment on specifics of this matter until all parties are allowed due process. I will go on record to say that the Jonesboro FOP has never received any contributions or donations from the "Back the Blue In God We Trust" organization. We have also never contributed in any way to the organization. There is a news article where FOP members wore shirts donned with the BACK THE BLUE slogan on the back, but this was in 2014 and was never affiliated with the organization in question.
While we have always backed the blue (JPD), we also back the green (Craighead Sheriff's Office), the grey (ASU PD / Probation Parole / CCDC), and the black (other local offices). We are made up of officers from various departments and we will continue to support our brothers and sisters in law enforcement no matter what color the uniform may be. We have never been affiliated with the Back the Blue organization and we also hope that the support this city has shown for area law enforcement does not falter due to this."
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