Bishop Lewis’ Thumbs Up for Police program continues to grow, still needs to be answered with smiles, waves and thank yous

Ten years ago HPD Auxiliary Chaplain Floyd Lewis began a campaign called Thumbs Up to show support for police officers. He referred to us as domestic soldiers.

The idea was simple: Encourage citizens to show their support for police by giving them a thumbs up when they observed police officers keeping the city safe.

Bishop Lewis passed away last year, but the campaign has been picked up by his successor, Bishop Corey Wilson. I have been working with Bishop Wilson, AAPOL’s Eric Fagan, former educators Fred Harris and Anthony Madry. We have been visiting with local leaders in Houston and the surrounding area to spread the word and generate support for the program that Bishop Lewis envisioned going nationwide.

We have visited with leaders such as police chiefs, our district attorney, local constables, our county attorney and former President George H.W. Bush. All have enthusiastically signed on to support the program. President Bush has pledged to get other former presidents on board as well.

I recently received an email from the widow of Bishop Lewis. She advised me that her granddaughter runs a local business and she always gives a thumbs up when police enter. She stated that some look at her with a puzzlement, as if they aren’t sure what it means. Thus, I am asking each of you to give a smile, a wave or a thank you each time a citizen gives you a thumbs up.

During our pray-for-police campaigns, we encouraged citizens to give a thumbs up while wearing the pray for police bracelet. Several officers have commented that it means a lot to see that many in our community wholeheartedly supporting the police.

We also have developed a citizens medal of honor that we will be giving out to police and citizens who go above and beyond to keep our city safe. If you know of someone deserving this honor, please let me know.

Texas Law Enforcement Council

A few years back the HPOU, Dallas Police Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association developed the Texas Law Enforcement Council (TLEC) to unite on common issues in the Texas Legislature and to educate officers across the state on current issues facing police.

The HPOU hosted the 3rd annual summit last month in our building where nearly 100 officers across the state attended. Officers heard about the latest technology available to police from body cameras to facial recognition technology TASER is working on.

The dean of the Texas Senate, Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, addressed the group regarding laws passed last session and the various issues anticipated for the upcoming session in 2017. He pledged his continued support for law enforcement and stated that police officers are near and dear to his heart. His record confirms that! If you ever see him out and about, please introduce yourself. As a side note, he chose to forego New Year’s festivities and did a ride-along this past New Year’s Eve with an HPD sergeant.

The officers also were addressed by Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg regarding the “war on police.” She was hammered with comments and questions for over an hour as officers let her know that many of us feel the media is not friendly to police. At the completion, we presented her with an “I love HPD” shirt. She actually left wearing it!

TLEC also heard from radio czar Michael Berry, who gave his praises to police officers for keeping our city safe and our military for keeping our country free. Michael always steps up when we need him and is a good friend to police.

Bishop Corey Wilson and a panel that included Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez addressed the group regarding police and community relations. This session was well received and many great ideas were shared. A respected attorney from the San Antonio area commented that the session was one of the best he has attended.

I want to personally thank Bobby Kessler for organizing the food each day and making sure the summit ran smoothly.

TLEC has now grown to include the Department of Public Safety Officers Association, the Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. Besides an annual summit, the group meets each week during the legislative session to discuss the upcoming bills for that week. HPOU is proud to be a part of this organization and hopes that someday all police groups will join.

Stay Vigilant

As of the writing of this article, 10 police officers in the United States have been killed in the line of duty this year. Eight of those were by gunfire. Five officers were killed in a four-day period in early February. Each year this country has approximately 130 officers killed in the line of duty. Please stay vigilant, partner up or wait for backup before putting yourself in harm’s way.

Your family needs you!