By the time you read this, an important anniversary will have passed. December 9 was the 26th anniversary of the murder of Danny Faulkner by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Most Americans have probably heard the murderer's name, as in "Free Mumia!" However, there's a pretty good chance that many do not know the name of Jamal's victim, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, Badge Number 4699. That is both a very real pity and an unfortunate sign of the times we live in, where bad guys are almost always more famous than their victims.
This may be a product of the 24-hour news cycle. Or just the fact that by the time the public hears about a case the victim is long gone, leaving just the criminal's name to be repeated over and over. Either way, the fact remains that perpetrators usually become household names, not the victims.
Who remembers the names of the murdered parents of the Menendez brothers, or the dead babies of Susan Smith? What about the first two victims of the savagery of Charlie Manson's clan, or any of the victims of David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, or Albert DeSalvo?
Other than the police officers that investigated the murders, I mean.
A Cowardly Murder
Daniel Faulkner was almost 26 years old when he was gunned down and executed on a cold Philadelphia sidewalk, on December 9, 1981. He was an Army veteran and had a community college degree in criminal justice. He had been married a little more than a year to his young wife, Maureen. After starting out as a corrections officer, he joined the Philadelphia PD in 1975, and loved being a cop.
On the night he was murdered, he was working a one-man car, and made a traffic stop. During the stop, he decided to arrest the driver. While he was doing so, another man ran up and shot him in the back. After Faulkner fell, the man stood over him and shot him in the face. The man tried and convicted of that crime was Mumia Abu-Jamal.
There are, of course, many more details. Some of the details are open to interpretation, depending on whose version of the story you listen to. The year was 1981, and a lot of the fancy, high-tech investigative gear and techniques we take for granted today hadn't even been invented yet. Philadelphia PD collected evidence, investigated the crime, and the Philly District Attorney presented the case at trial. A mixed race jury unanimously convicted Jamal, and in a second penalty phase he was sentenced to death.
There's a lot more to the story. In fact, most of the story takes place after the sentencing. For most of the last 26 years, Jamal has sat on death row, while a succession of attorneys have filed a never ending string of appeals.
However, this article is not about Daniel Faulkner. It's about the true survivor in this case, his widow Maureen.
A True Tale of Survival
Maureen Faulkner has weathered the storm, and has continued her fight to keep the memory of her murdered husband alive. She has endured every kind of vile nastiness from the "supporters" of Jamal, and has seen both urban revolutionaries and Hollywood "stars" join in condemning her husband, and elevating Jamal to virtual sainthood. The Free Mumia movement has been international in scope, with Jamal being named an honorary citizen of Paris, and having a French street named after him. She has seen him given a radio platform by National Public Radio, and several opportunities as a college commencement speaker (from prison, via video hook-up). She has endured his glorification as a "political prisoner."
Whether you know the details of the case, and its sickening aftermath, or whether you have only a passing acquaintance with it, there is a cautionary tale here for each of us in law enforcement.
Officer Survival is a State of Mind
We have done a lot of thinking about officer survival in our profession during the last two decades, and no small amount of writing and training. We have explored physical techniques for managing suspects, better tactical shooting techniques for surviving an armed confrontation, and more refined techniques for driving in a pursuit. We have talked less about courtroom survival in the aftermath of an incident, and we have talked and trained even less regarding the psychological after effects of the use of force.
Something we have spent very little time on is the post-incident survival of our families and loved ones. And the training that has been done has tended to focus on helping families deal with post traumatic stress in their surviving officers' life, or on getting through the traumatic loss of a beloved officer at the hands of either a criminal or of a cruel fate.
Nothing we have done, or are doing, could possibly prepare our families for both that traumatic loss and a 26-year ordeal wherein the murderer of our cherished family member is treated like a folk hero by the very society that our loved one was trying to protect when they were murdered.
Nothing we have done, or are doing, could prepare our families for being jeered at, called vile names, and actually being spat upon by protesters outside court hearings.
Nothing we have done, or are doing, could help our families to endure decades of finger pointing, and accusations. Or for 26 years of truth twisting so extreme that the current story being foisted on the media and the public bears very little resemblance to the actual events that occurred.
And nothing we are doing, or have done, will help our families to doggedly stay in the fight, constantly working to preserve our good name after we are murdered, showing up at one appellate hearing after another, and basically dedicating their entire lives to our memory.
How do you train for that? How do you prepare someone for that burden? How do you protect someone after you are murdered and gone?
I don't know the answer to that one, but I know we need to think about it. A lot.
After 26 years of dealing with this totally unacceptable situation, Maureen Faulkner has finally decided to tell her story, and with the help of attorney and radio host Michael Smerconish, has just released her book, Murdered by Mumia. It is a book that every police officer should read, and every police family should have on the shelf for support and inspiration if the unthinkable should happen.
I do not know Maureen Faulkner, although I wish I did. I would like to shake her hand and thank her for dedicating her life to the cause. And, although I've never met her, I know something about her, and it's this: Maureen Faulkner is not a saint, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. She is, however, saintly in her pursuit of justice for her murdered police officer, for her Danny.
Stay safe and wear your vest!
Justice for Daniel Faulkner Website: www.danielfaulkner.com.
Murdered by Mumia is available at www.Amazon.com.