By T.B. Lefever:
Outgoing 44th president of the United States, Barrack Hussein Obama, clearly has not been the law and order president that President Elect Donald J. Trump has promised he will be when he takes the Oval Office next month. Over the past eight years, president number 44 has either directly or indirectly undermined the character, professionalism, and impartiality of our nation’s police force through his choosing of sides in media-made notorious police incidents and his use of the bully pulpit to drive beliefs and public opinion. The law enforcement community took another slap across the face on Thursday with the presidential appointment of Debo Adegbile to a six-year term with the US Commission on Civil Rights.
Debo Adegbile headed a team of NAACP attorneys representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was charged with the murder of a Philadelphia police officer back in 1981. Post-conviction, Adegbile continued to finance a lengthy appeals process that transformed a truly bad guy into a cult figure and ultimately led to Abu-Jamal’s death penalty sentence being downgraded to a life sentence. I can remember riding around Philadelphia and New Jersey on the back of my dad’s Kawasaki during the Daniel Faulkner Memorial Motorcycle Run charity event when I was a kid. This was the first time I was exposed to the tragic story of the murdered cop. It was also an important moment for me as I realized that my favorite ice cream brand, Ben and Jerry’s, was a staunch supporter of Abu-Jamal. Needless to say it was here that I learned how to boycott at the ripe age of fifteen. So thank you for the life lesson, Ben, and thank you for my good health and slim physique, Jerry.
Perhaps my most important memory from that day spent with my dad was when one of Officer Faulkner’s family members spoke about how the crime was still taking a toll on everyone who was left behind. He explained how years and years of appeals made by Abu-Jamal and the newly appointed Adegbile made it impossible for the wounds caused by the loss to heal. I put myself in his shoes and thought about how it would feel if my father was murdered on the job and my family was robbed of the closure needed to move on. Instead of the death sentence originally imposed, Faulkner’s killer has been able to profit from writing books, receive celebrity shout-outs, and achieve fame while sitting on death row for decades. With the memory of this incident still in my head, it became my topic for a Law and Government presentation at South River High School back in 2002. During the presentation, I pointed out that Abu-Jamal ambushed Officer Faulkner from a taxi cab while he was conducting a traffic stop on Abu-Jamal’s brother. I noted that Abu-Jamal was discovered sitting on a curb wounded by a bullet from the officer’s gun and that Abu-Jamal had the weapon used to murder Faulkner sitting by his side. In addition to the hard evidence, a confession made by Abu-Jamal and eyewitness accounts of the crime made it an open and shut case.
Toward the end of the presentation, I was heckled and called a racist by one of my classmates. It turned out that she was outraged by my pointing out how Abu-Jamal called his shot years prior to committing the murder, when, as a Black Panther and radio host, he quoted Mao Zedong’s “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” My most pleasant memory at the ten-year reunion was when that same seething classmate told me that her young son is taught that police are heroes in her household. I removed the Smith and Wesson handcuff key that I wear around my neck on a ball bearing chain and handed it to her. “Give this to your son. Tell him it’s from your friend who is a real-life cop.” We had a moment and it was awesome.
I wish our president had gained a more even-keeled and fair opinion on police like my classmate eventually did. I’m not saying he needs to constantly sing our praises and herald us as heroes like she teaches her son. I’m simply saying that I would have been a bigger fan of him as our commander in chief if he was a bit more respectful of our nation’s police force. President Obama first nominated Adegbile to the Justice Department back in 2014, but a bipartisan Senate rejected it due to the detrimental effects of his race-baiting defense tactics on the city of Philadelphia. Although painting a cop-killer as a victim got him rejected from the Justice Department then, our president merely pivoted, as he has been known to. In a move reminiscent of his use of executive orders to bypass the checks and balances system of our government, President Obama has appointed Adegbile to a high-ranking position that cannot be blocked by the Senate—or by anyone else, for that matter—and he’s done it with less than a month remaining in his final term. A portion of my police paycheck in the form of taxes helps pay for the position this man now holds. I see the appointment as a slap in the face to my colleagues, and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Here is what others are saying.
President of the International Union of Police Associations, Sam Cabral, went on record to say that Adegbile “spread lies, spouted racism, and maligned the Philadelphia police in his failed efforts to overcome justice and portray this vicious murderer as, somehow, the victim.” President of the Fraternal Order of Police Philadelphia Chapter, John McNesby, voiced his intent to fight the appointment when he said, “I don’t know whether he can be un-appointed, but that will be one of our first orders of business when we go down and meet with the new administration in January.” Finally, Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey stated, “Mr. Adegbile did not simply defend a client. He supervised an effort to lionize unrepentant cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who cold-bloodedly murdered Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner 35 years ago.”
There will be many different lenses used to look back on the legacy of our 44th president. For me, the reoccurring anti-police and criminal sympathizing theme will be the one I rely on most faithfully. I am hopeful that number 45 will mend some of the fences and right some of the wrongs simply by being a good cheerleader for our nation and its police officers. A leader sets the tone for others to follow, and he or she can either have a positive or negative influence on their people. While this appointment appears to be the icing on the cake in regards to a damaging eight years for the law enforcement community and its relationship with greater society, I’ve been eating the president’s other baked goods for years now. The icing always tastes bitter and leaves you with an upset stomach. I can only hope that President Obama’s cake is ready to be boxed up and shipped out. With just under a month to go, please don’t let there be a cherry out there that is yet to be placed on top.
T.B. Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.