Earlier this week, we reported that Maureen Faulkner—the widow of an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department who was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal during a traffic stop in 1981—contends that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's office should be disqualified from overseeing any appeals in that case.
Following his death penalty sentence, Abu-Jamal became an icon for anti-police activists. Born with the name Wesley Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1982 for the death of Officer Daniel Faulkner. His death penalty sentence was overturned by a Federal court and in 2011 he was given a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Abu-Jamal and his attorneys have been engaged in a nearly constant legal battle which Maureen Faulkner has described as being "in a mental prison."
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner appears to have now taken the helm of that one-woman detention center.
In August, United States Attorney William McSwain—who serves in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania—said following the shooting of six Philadelphia police officers that the City of Brotherly Love has "a new culture of disrespect for law enforcement" that is "promoted and championed by District Attorney Larry Krasner."
McSwain pointed out that during Krasner's victory party in 2017, attendees chanted "F*** the police" and "No good cops in a racist system."
McSwain added that the DA "routinely calls police and prosecutors corrupt and racist, even 'war criminals' that he compares to Nazis."
Sadly, Krasner is not the only top prosecutor who makes the police an opponent rather than a partner in the criminal justice system.
This was seen in stark relief this week in my adopted hometown of San Francisco, where the son of two members of the terrorist organization Weather Underground was elected as District Attorney.
Chesa Boudin—who previously held the position of deputy public defender—ran on a platform of ending gang enhancements, part of a California law that adds additional prison sentences to defendants who participate in violent street gangs.
He also promised San Franciscans that his office would not prosecute "quality of life crimes" such as camping on city sidewalks, offering or soliciting sex, public urination/defecation, and other activities that are listed as crimes in the city.
Boudin also made "holding police accountable" a point of emphasis during just about every stump speech.
It merits mention that his parents—Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert—were sentenced to 20 years to life and 75 years to life (respectively) for the felony murders of two police officers and a security guard in 1981.
On the eve of the election, one of Boudin's most ardent supporters led the assembled crowd at a rally in a chant of "F**k the POA! F**k the POA! F**k the POA!"
To call Boudin's mindset and political philosophy "anti-police" is an understatement of nearly comical proportion.
Unfortunately, none of this is in any way funny.
Across the country, voters are choosing left-leaning "social justice" candidates for DA who promise reforms to the bail system, limited enforcement of drug offenses, and an "end to mass incarceration."
So how do cops operate in such environments?
Here are five things to remember when you have an anti-police District Attorney foisted upon you by the electorate or those who they put into positions of political leadership.
1. Write Excellent Reports
Writing reports is boring. It's time consuming. It's a pain in the hindquarters. However, writing detailed reports can inoculate you against false claims of misconduct.
If your department doesn't have body-worn cameras, ask your leadership—or consult your policy manual—about buying one for yourself.
Anti-police prosecutors are seemingly more interested in bringing charges against you than the person you placed under arrest for drug possession or other "minor" crimes, so put yourself in the best possible position to prevail.
2. Be a Student of Policy
Reading the department's policy and procedure manual is boring—it may even be more of a time-consuming pain in the hindquarters than writing those abovementioned reports. But knowing that document as well as is possible—and adhering to it—can keep those anti-police prosecutors at arm's length.
While you're at it, be a lifetime student of the law—the courts are constantly moving the goal posts on you, so do your best to know the ever-changing lay of the land.
And remember that the adage "knowledge is power" is incomplete. The application of knowledge is power.
3. Be Circumspect on Social Media
I have a ton of law enforcement friends on my personal Facebook page, and the overwhelming majority of them are very careful to keep their posts well within the bounds of what most folks would consider reasonable. But every so often I see something in my feed that causes me to think, "What possible good can come from sharing that sentiment with the world?"
Don't jeopardize your career with a snarky comment that could put your name on a list maintained by anti-police groups whose mission it is to make your life miserable.
Activist anti-police DAs already have their sights set on you. Don't hand them a loaded magazine.
4. Train, Train, Train
How recently have you attended CIT training? Have you put your name in the hat for additional training not immediately related to your current duties? Are you active in your state's associations?
I'm fortunate to be allowed to participate—as a civilian—in lots of police training officers in my area conduct "on their own time and their own dime." At every turn, I note that those guys and gals present are the very best officers on their departments.
The cops who really need to be at those voluntary training sessions—the ones who are most likely to get jacked up by that anti-police prosecutor—are not present.
Training is body armor for your career.
5. Understand the "New Normal"
When I learned that Chesa Boudin would be the new District Attorney in my City, my immediate, visceral reaction was a deep desire to throw a chair at my big-screen television. I was dumbfounded, astounded, speechless, and flabbergasted. How on earth could this have happened? Did these voters have any idea what they've done?
Then, in a moment of Zen, it became clear to me I'd have to figure out a way to exist in this "new normal" until the pendulum swings inevitably back in the other direction.
The pendulum always swings back—patience is the word of the day until it does.
[Untamed] Political Animals
District Attorneys are generally elected officials, or serve at the pleasure of elected officials such as mayors and/or city council members. They are political animals.
The primary goal of any elected official is to win re-election—full stop.
Consequently, they look to the prevailing political winds to fashion their election (and re-election) campaigns, pandering to the majority block of voters in their jurisdictions.
San Francisco and Philadelphia are not the only American cities to elect prosecutors who want to remake the criminal justice system from the inside-out. Wesley Bell is a reformist prosecutor elected last year in St. Louis County, Missouri. Rachael Rollins was elected district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. There are myriad others who are not as well-known.
These anti-police DAs are not going away anytime soon, so for good or ill it is incumbent on law enforcement officers to adapt, adjust, and overcome the "new normal" of reformist prosecutors.