Chief Lewis: Adversity has piled on, opponents are small groupPublished 12:00am Tuesday, September 11, 2012
VIDALIA — Police Chief Arthur Lewis reassured a crowd gathered at the police department Monday of one of the most important policies and procedures in his department — an open-door policy.occurrence
Lewis invited citizens to a public meeting to discuss questions, comments and concerns about the Vidalia Police Department.
“My main goal is to open a line of communication between the public and the police officers of this department,” Lewis said. “Y’all came here as a group, but I want you to know that we have an open-door policy here, and the people are always welcome to stop by.
“If you want to know something, get it straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Speaking for more than an hour to a crowd filled with business owners, residents and even his family members, Lewis answered questions regarding the changes in the department since he officially took over as police chief in June.
“No other chief has gone through the adversity that I’ve gone through, but I welcome that every day,” Lewis said. “This department is going to be run off the rules and regulations that we have in place.
“And I know there’s some accusations against me, but the first thing to understand is that we have to follow and abide by the law.”
The accusations Lewis referred to include citizens’ frustrations after several officers and personnel were terminated and resigned — both as a result of behavioral issues and the city’s financial issues that caused 14 city employees to be laid off in August.
“When those people sat across from me in my office, all of them — except one — stood up and gave me a hug or a handshake and said, ‘I know you’re doing the right thing,’” Lewis said. “If I’ve terminated one of your family or kin, go home and ask them what about Arthur K. Lewis’ decision wasn’t right?
“If I can help them, I’d help them, but I’m not going to violate the law.”
In the city-wide layoffs, the Vidalia Police Department lost four employees — two of which were already on administrative leave for a traffic incident involving the Rev. Justin Conner in July.
Lewis said at the meeting that the department is now staffed with a total of 34 employees — including full-time officers, dispatchers and reserve officers.
In July, a group of Vidalia residents filled a recall petition against Lewis.
The petition must be signed by 33 and 1/3 of the qualified electors within 180 days for a recall election to be considered by the state.
Lewis addressed the petition by first having secretary Gayle Cowan read the letter his office sent back to the secretary of state’s office regarding the notice of the petition being filed.
“As a matter of record, I want it to be known that I and my campaign committee have no intention of asking the good people of this town to form a committee and pledge their hard-earned money to oppose the attempt of a recall,” Cowan said reading Lewis’s letter. “I believe this is an effort by a small group of disgruntled voters whose candidate did not win the election in March.”
Echoing the importance of the department’s open-door policy, Lewis said he was not angry at the residents that started the petition, but also said he wished they would have come and talked to him regarding their issues.
“I served my country for the right of people to think and say what they want,” Lewis said. “But if I have something to say to you, I don’t use no alias — I use Arthur K. Lewis.
“Anytime you want to do something right, you’re going to face opposition.”