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Illinois police group says Facebook blocking ad for Officer of the Year

Social media giant rejected tribute to officer stabbed repeatedly in head and neck by suspect, claiming ad "was political and it might affect the outcome of an election," according to leader of Illinois police chiefs association.

Updated: July 29, 2021 - 11:40pm

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The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police said the social media giant Facebook is blocking the group from buying an advertisement to honor the Officer of the Year.

Association Executive Director Ed Wojcicki said East Peoria Police Officer Jeffery Bieber was chosen as the Officer of the Year.

"On February 2, 2021, Officer Bieber was responding to a domestic disturbance in East Peoria when he heard that the suspect had left the scene in a truck," the group said in announcing Bieber as Officer of the Year.

While the suspect was initially compliant and docile, the group said, he then pulled out a knife and attacked Bieber.

"Bieber attempted to back away, and he deployed his Taser, but those efforts were unsuccessful," the group said. Officer Bieber was stabbed in the head and neck "multiple times, damaging nerves and hitting an artery, causing the officer to bleed profusely."

"Officer Bieber was able to get to his firearm and discharge it successfully, ending the confrontation," killing the suspect, the group said.

"[Bieber] really did everything right," Wojcicki told radio station WMAY in Springfield, Ill. "He fended off someone who was attacking him, and he had to save his own life in the process. This officer was stabbed multiple times in the head and in the neck by a person in East Peoria."

The group decided to make a social media post honoring the patrolman, but Wojcicki said Facebook rejected the ad buy, "saying that it was political and it might affect the outcome of an election."

"And we said, 'That's crazy, that's just absolutely crazy,'" Wojcicki said.

The association has bought advertisements before on Facebook.

"We do that on a regular basis," Wojcicki said. "We use it, we like it. There are times we've boosted other posts and we've had no trouble with it, and to be honest with you though we have had some other ones rejected. You know all about the police reform bill that was passed ... sometimes we comment on that, and those ads get rejected. We don't fight those because we do understand that those are political and we just think, 'Oh well, we tried.'"

But Wojcicki said the most recent ad rejection to honor the Officer of the Year is baffling. He said the group appealed the decision to Facebook twice, but was further denied the ad buy.

"And they don't ever really tell you exactly why, they just send you their language that says, 'It may be political, and it may affect the outcome of an election, and it may be a social issue,'" Wojcicki said. "And we just think that's outrageous because all we really want to do is help people understand that a brave police officer needs to be honored."

A representative from Facebook acknowledged the complaint, but did not provide further comment in time for publication.

Wojcicki is asking people to sign a petition at Change.org to urge Facebook to allow the ad to be approved.

Following the attack in February, "Officer Bieber was taken to a local hospital with very serious injuries and spent several months recovering before finally returning to work," the group said.

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