PHILADELPHIA, December 8, 2014 — For twenty three years Ray Lewis stood alongside his fellow police officers patrolling the streets of Philadelphia, often in very tough, low income neighborhoods. He started as a patrol officer, and retired as Captain of the 25th precinct. He still dons his crisp blue uniform on occasion, but more often now, you’ll see Lewis that way facing off with his fellow officers, standing alongside protestors, as he did just a few weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri.
And it’s not the first time.
Lewis was active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and he’s planning to lend more of a voice regarding the Eric Garner homicide in Staten Island and other cases of potential police abuse. Lewis took a few moments to share some thoughts about his feelings on current events, and the police force in America today.
Sheryl Kay: Ray, it’s been a difficult time these past few weeks between the police and local communities, from Missouri to New York. We saw you were in Ferguson in full uniform, standing with the protesters. In your view, what really happened there, and what brought you to stand with the protesters?
Ray Lewis: That killing in Ferguson was straw that broke camel’s back. The community there tolerated years of disrespect and harassment. They were singled out for ticketing, complaints, not respected, physical and verbal abuse. As with any action I attend I always have two goals. First, show solidarity with the protesters and that they have a legitimate cause. And second, to try and reach white mainstream America thru mainstream media.
SK: What were you thinking, and feeling, when facing fellow police officers there?
RL: I wish they would realize that they are being used by the filthy rich, in other words the one percent and corporate America, as mercenaries in a broad scheme to keep turmoil among us so as to not realize big corporations are raping the land and its people.
SK: Hard to believe that not more than two weeks after Ferguson there would be similar protesting regarding the lack of an indictment in the death of Eric Garner. You saw the video. What happened?
RL: We have two murders that were initiated by walking in the street, selling loose cigarettes. Something is drastically wrong here. Both Brown and Garner were singled out and they knew it. I can almost assure you that police officer Wilson instructed Brown ‘Get your F-ing black ass out of the street.’
Brown suffered a lifetime of harassment and he may, through frustration, have replied not to Wilson’s liking. Then all hell breaks loose.
Same with Garner. Totally callous Officer Pantaleo didn’t give a damn about ‘I can’t breathe.’ For selling loose cigs? Really? Harassment pure and simple. Don’t tell me that they don’t have better things to do. And if you really look at this – why can’t he sell loose cigarettes? If governments are worried about not receiving taxes on his profit, let’s look at corporate billion dollar tax rip offs first.
SK: Is this the police presence you were a part of when you were on the streets?
RL: No this was not the police department I was a part of, the militarization of it. But yes, it was the same in other areas. The invention of the video capable cell phones makes it look like it is happens more often now. This abuse always went on, but kept from public.
SK: What kind of feedback are you getting from your fellow police officers these days?
RL: It’s never good. But after Ferguson I received serious threats. I mostly get called a traitor and keep in mind an engaged military hates a traitor more than the actual enemy.
SK: What can be done to make it better, Ray? What actions can the community take, and what can the police do?
RL: I’ll go into a few, however as long as the rich are still in control it will be putting a Band-Aid on a melanoma mole. All street crime can eventually traced back to corporate America. Oppression, discrimination, redlining, exploitation, and white collar crime. With that in mind, some of the Band-Aids include body cameras. The bad cops will resist, the good cops will love them.
Second, the community must demand Civilian Review Boards (CRB). Blacks are very hesitant to bring complaint’s to police. They know nothing will be done and also that they may suffer retaliation. CRBs will help. And the CRBs must be representative of the community. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, age. From the starched shirt and tie 70 old white banker to the 18 old ring nosed, tattooed black skate boarder. They MUST have all the info that police Internal Affairs has for the investigation. If their conclusion differs from IAD the Mayor gets involved, and makes final decisions.
And finally the most important change must be made in the hiring process of the entire police force.
Currently the personality of an applicant is determined by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory which measures many aspects of personality. Unfortunately, in one area, the police look for levels of mental toughness which translates to low degrees of sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. This has to be reversed.
Keep in mind, most Commanders rise through the ranks as a power trip for more power, authority, money, and sex appeal. Few police officers rise to have more control over how other officers are serving the public.
If the recruitment process is reversed from hard to soft, this personality of Commanders will change also. Compassionate, empathic Commanders are essential. Not only to set the proper example, but also to hold subordinates responsible to follow professional standards.