President Obama continues to use the White House as a platform to dishonor police officers.
On May 11, Obama and First Lady Michele welcomed a rap poet who celebrates cop killers to the White House. Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., known professionally as "Common," performed a few days before thousands of police officers arrived in Washington for "National Police Week," the annual memorial to honor fallen officers. Common's "A Song for Assata" is his ode to cop killer Joanne Deborah Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, wanted by the FBI on several felony charges. On May 2, 1973, two New Jersey State Troopers stopped her car on the New Jersey Turnpike. Chesimard and her accomplice shot and killed Trooper Werner Foerster execution-style at point blank range, and wounded Trooper James Harper. Convicted in 1977, Chesimard escaped from prison in 1979 and was located in Cuba in 1984. Common named his daughter Omoye Assata Lynn. Abu Mumia Jamal was a member of the Black Panthers until 1970. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the December 9, 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner during a traffic stop. Jamal's death sentence is still on appeal. Common's rap, "God is Freedom," supports Jamal's release. In "A Letter to the Law," Common tells "the law my Uzi weighs a ton ... I hold up a peace sign but I carry a gun." He concludes with his "burn a Bush" slur to then-President George W. Bush. Obama's invitation to Common is part of a pattern. He used a White House press conference in 2009 to accuse officers of the Cambridge, Mass. Police Department of acting "stupidly" for arresting his friend, a black professor at Harvard, who refused to identify himself during a burglary investigation. Obama refused to apologize for his admittedly baseless accusation, and for slandering police officers as racists with "a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."
As the widow of a retired police officer, who has experienced the danger of a "traffic stop," I'm obliged to add my voice to the outrage expressed by many in the law enforcement family.
My husband Gene and I were driving with our four young daughters to a barbecue at the home of another police officer on a Saturday afternoon. An obviously drunk driver nearly hit our car as he swerved past us, while running other cars off the road. I knew that Gene wouldn't ignore him, so I wasn't surprised when he said, "I have to make him pull over before he causes an accident."
The driver stopped, but it was at a bar for another drink. We pulled in behind his car. A barrel-chested guy with a huge neck got out of the car and headed toward the bar. Gene confronted him with his badge, telling him that he was under arrest for suspicion of drunk driving, and to remain where he was. Gene told me to go inside and tell them to call the department: "Officer needs assistance."
My fear that this guy wouldn't go quietly was confirmed when I returned to find Gene struggling with him. Gene had been hospitalized a few days prior for a blood clot in his right arm, which prevented him from using it.
I was nearly eight months pregnant or I would have been on the guy's back. All I could do was comfort our girls who were watching a bad man trying to hurt their daddy. Law enforcement, like the military, is a family matter.
Too much time passed, making it obvious that the bartender hadn't made the call. I ran back inside and yelled at him to call the police or suffer the consequences.
I learned first-hand how thin the "Blue Line" can be.
Back outside, I saw Gene use one arm to spin the perp around and apply a "choke hold" around his huge neck. Police arrived as he slumped unconscious onto the grass. We weren't surprised to learn that he had numerous convictions for driving under the influence.
Our son was born about a month later. Two days later, Gene arrived to take us home. I knew as soon as he came into my hospital room that something was very wrong: "Vern Owings was killed last night." They had gone through the Long Beach, Calif. police academy together.
Vern and his partner had stopped to help what they thought were two men having car trouble. The driver, a felon on parole, shot Vern in the head as he approached the driver's side. Gene's sorrow was deepened by his feeling that it might not have happened if he'd been with Vern that night.
Vernon J. Owings is one of the thousands of fallen officers honored at the National Police Memorial. His inscription on the Memorial reads:
Officer Owings was shot and killed when he and his partner stopped to help what they thought were two men having car trouble on Seaside Boulevard. One of the men produced a handgun and shot and killed Officer Owings. Both men were apprehended.
The gunman was the leader of a gang responsible for 70 holdups that netted the gang more than one hundred thousand dollars. He was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death on November 2, 1960. His sentence was later commuted to life.
Common and Obama have more in common than disrespect for law enforcement. There's the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor of 20 years who preached racist, anti-American, anti-government diatribes. Common began attending Wright's church at the age of eight. He defended Wright against critics of his inflammatory sermons. He "rapped" for Obama from Wright's pulpit on New Year's Eve 2008. The last line of Common's rap "poem" at the White House honored Obama: "One King's Dream, he was able to Barack us." I'm guessing that Mrs. Obama wouldn't have felt honored if Common had performed his little ditty, "The Bitch in Yoo." According to White House Press Secretary James Carney, President Obama appreciates the way Common tries to get children to focus on poetry, "as opposed to some of the negative influences of life on the street."
Apparently, regular folks like police officers aren't as enlightened as the Obamas. Here we thought that terrible grammar, diction and enunciation sated with obscenities, misogyny, and racism are "some of the negative consequences of life on the street" that we want children to avoid.
The day after Common's performance, Obama "welcomed" America's "Top Cops" from across the country to the White House. Obama's sop doesn't begin to cover his offenses.
I know of one top cop who would have declined the invitation.
Jan LaRue is senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.