Bishop Floyd Lewis served 27 years as HPD’s volunteer chaplain, doing the Lord’s work to help officers and comfort their families in times of crisis.
In recent years the bishop developed “Thumbs Up,” a program that entails a citizen’s common yet meaningful signal to Houston officers – or any first responder for that matter – to demonstrate support and recognition for doing a good job.
Lewis long proclaimed that, sure, there are bad officers just like bad teachers and doctors but “97 percent” of law enforcement consists of hard-driven, dedicated heroes who stand ready to give their lives to protect honest citizens.
He called these officers “domestic soldiers.”
The Mission Continues
The bishop over the International Church Fellowship of Houston died on Sept. 7 at age 79. He knew his latest mission was blossoming but not yet where it needed to be. His last wish was to fervently continue the effort. Thus he left that worthy mission in the able hands of his successor, Bishop Corey S.Wilson, and two other lifelong educators, Anthony Madry and Fred Harris, who now assist Wilson in getting out the word.
Wilson, Madry (publicist) and Harris (marketing director) have taken to the streets to make sure that they don’t miss a beat in continuing Bishop Floyd Lewis’ mission. As the saying goes, they are leaving no stone unturned.
They are clear on that mission:
To show the minority communities that police officers are human beings called to danger every day to help honest citizens in time of serious, sometimes life-threatening trouble. Both critics and supports alike should use facts, not rhetoric or political motivations, to resolve policing problems.
As you would expect, Bishop Wilson is himself an eloquent minister, who said:
“We want to show a different picture of the police department from the one that is normally seen. Only about three percent (of officers) have exacerbated problems between the community and the police. Ninety-seven percent are good.
“We are bringing forth that 97 percent of officers who serve as our domestic soldiers. We want to show that somebody appreciates their expertise, heroism, and their ability to preserve and protect.
“Despite the bad press, there is someone who knows their call to duty every single day.”
Bishop Lewis knew. And now Bishop Wilson has taken up the baton with his heart set on winning the race for the good guys.
For the past year Bishop Lewis and his “Thumbs Up” group have had regular monthly meetings with HPOU President Ray Hunt. They discuss what’s happening out in communities like Third War and Acres Homes and determine ways to develop more effective lines of communication.
Perhaps one of the brightest spots in a sky full of achievements during the Thumbs Up campaign was the bishop’s meeting with former President George H. W. Bush. The former president gave put his thumbs high in the air alongside one of his typical wide smiles.
President Bush and his beloved wife Barbara also became cover subjects for the October edition of the Badge & Gun, as they posed wearing their PRAY FOR POLICE wrist bands, determined to express their undying support, as always.
The bishop’s group awards a “medal of honor” to individuals whose policing careers have brought honor and commitment. It also spends time with youths trying to education them about police encounters, accentuating positive responses instead of negative reactions.
“The projects we have is the how that (proper communications) was going to happen,” Wilson explained to the Badge & Gun. “Bishop Lewis was adamant about the good being presented and not misrepresented.
“That doesn’t negate the bad. We take that into consideration. If something came up we would deal accordingly based on the truth and the facts, not being biased and prejudiced.
“One of the things he noticed was that the community – when events take place – it’s always hard for the community to get the true facts of the events. The police department is not able to let out credible facts because these facts involve an ongoing investigation.
“The media plays on the fact that the police department can’t let out certain facts. The media comes in and paints a picture that doesn’t include all the facts. And the picture is a negative one.
“So the community is pretty much forced to feed into what they are shown.”
Bishop Wilson stressed that his mantel of leadership will be like that of his mentor, the late Bishop Lewis. This means the meetings with Ray Hunt have taken on a special need to establish trust between the communities and elected leaders.
At the time of the interview, Wilson, Madry and Harris – along with Hunt – had scheduled meetings with District Attorney Devon Anderson, County Attorney Vince Ryan and each and every Harris County constable. Eric Fagan, president of the African American Police Officers League and an HPOU member, also attended, once again accentuating the unity between AAPOL and HPOU.
“We’re not fighting against each other,” Fagan has said. “We work together hand-in-hand. Ray Hunt is like a brother to me. We need to bridge the gap. A lot of people don’t know the whole story. We know that we have a gap between the community and the police.”
Bishop Wilson stressed that the primary aim is to establish trust and find effective methods to maintain trustworthy communications. Bishop Lewis fostered this practice and Wilson wants to keep it alive and thriving.
Wilson reflected on recent history involving the police and minority communities. He is determined to see that community leaders don’t “go off on some tangents because they’re not fed all the facts. The media plays into that. That infuriated Bishop Lewis. It made the police at large look bad. And that was not the case.”
Madry added, “These protest marches do nothing but get people hurt – the police and the marchers. The agitators want to keep the hostility between the police and the community going.
“One of the things the bishop said was that he wanted to model things after the city of Houston.
“We don’t have the problems of Ferguson or Baltimore because of the relationship he was looking to forge with leaders in the city. The model he referred to is based on forming these relationships and thinking things through when problems take place.”
“A better word is collaboration,” Bishop Wilson suggested.
Wilson believes if a problem crops up, take it directly to the chief of police and tackle it with facts and not rumors and innuendo.
The line of communications figures to be better and stronger in Houston, which has what Police Chief Charles “Chuck” McClelland has termed “a majority minority department” in which more than half the commissioned officers on the force are people of color. Under these conditions the “us-versus-them” mentality that many community leaders have had in the past isn’t necessarily applicable anymore.
Accentuating this point, Bishop Wilson said that he comes from the outside and has no local agenda except to focus on the facts of potentially emotional policing issues and do what’s right without trashing the overall reputation and practices of law enforcement agencies such as the HPD.
No Hidden Agenda
“They are making these people (police) negative machines when they are human just like you and me,” Wilson said, virtually quoting a key point of his philosophical approach.
“If anything comes up it can be brought to our group so we can get to the facts and find the solutions to put out the fire,” he said. “We are pro-right and pro-facts and work from there. Bishop Lewis wanted to make sure that people that got up to represent the police department and the community were reputable.”
And now Wilson’s group wants to better establish and ingrain the necessary trust to become that representation. And be effective. The goal is to take this approach to cities around Houston, Texas and the rest of the nation.
Since he is not originally from Houston and hasn’t been around here long enough to succumb to the ins and outs of race card politics, Wilson believes he has an advantage. Born and raised in New Orleans, he spent 21 years in California as a pastor, psychologist and community organizer “who sat on a lot of boards and gang task forces.”
Bishop Lewis discovered him and took him under his wing.
“Most of my experience came from another part of the country,” he said. “I don’t know anyone and don’t owe anyone anything other than doing what’s right.”
Admittedly, that’s a difficult task but Wilson figures he’s ahead of the curve since he has no political motives because he’s running for something or representing a special interest group that’s been around Houston for many years with the same aim – to play the race card in any politically advantageous conflict.
“We don’t have that problem,” marketing director Harris pointed out. “We come from another precinct involving ministers. Bishop Lewis handpicked us.
“Corey is not from here so he doesn’t owe anybody anything. We are on the side of what we call right. Whatever is right is the side we’re on.”
Bishop Floyd Lewis spent his life cutting through the rhetoric and race-card motives in order to get to the facts and find the right solutions.
Now his successor, Bishop Corey Wilson, wants to do the same thing and said that’s why a constant communicative dialog with HPOU and HPD is mandatory and ongoing.