Portland Police Sergeant Fired for Telling Cops to Shoot Black People
"If you come across a Black person, just shoot them," former Sgt. Gregg Lewis told his officers. Lewis could still get more than $100,000, or about 9 months pay for time he didn't work.
Former Sgt. Gregg Lewis, who worked for the Portland Police Department, told officers to just shoot Black people for no reason. He was later terminated.
On Feb. 12, 2017, during afternoon roll call, Lewis was instructing officers on a civil holds procedure, which is the process of taking people to a detoxification center when they are intoxicated in public. He then said, "If you come across a Black person, just shoot them."
The remarks were made three days after the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes. There were 16 officers and three other sergeants present at the 4 p.m. roll call. The sergeants reported his racist comment to a superior because they felt uncomfortable.
Officers' interviews varied with reference to how his comment was interpreted. According to one officer, Lewis said: "If you come across a guy in a suit and tie that came downtown and had a little too much to drink … he's probably not the guy you want to detox straight out of the garage. He will most likely sue you. If it's a homeless guy, you will probably be safe. I doubt he's going to sue you."
Police officers during the roll call began to discuss comments by people online who suggested that Portland police officers shoot Black people to kill but only wound white people. Another officer interpreted the commentary in a much different manner after that discussion. That particular officer recounted: "Officers began talking about this statement, and then I heard Sergeant Lewis state, 'Well, let's just go out and kill all the Black people.'"
In another recollection, an officer responded to Lewis' statement saying, "Oh my God,'' and Lewis threw his hands up in the air, said an expletive and added, "What do I care?''
Most of the officers remained quiet after Lewis finished his spiel.
He was later fired. This is the letter detailing his disciplinary action.
Lewis later denied treating people different regardless of race. He blamed his horrible choice of words on being "sarcastic but saw how someone would be offended."
Although he was fired, his comments were just made public this week by the mayor's office. City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty put his words on record because, according to records, her colleagues are actually trying to reinstate the former sergeant but then have him retire with back pay to ensure an arbitrator couldn't overturn his firing and put him back to work.
So even though his comments were egregious and he lost his job because of it, city officials are trying to still ensure that he has a way to earn money.
Hardesty is against that plan completely. It would entitle Lewis to a $100K payout for being a racist.
She explained: "The gist is the same: this person sworn to protect us made clear that he views certain types of people expendable in our society. I thank his fellow officers for reporting this heinous comment and elevating it as a punishable offense. What Mr. Lewis said makes my stomach turn."
Even the police commissioner said Lewis' statement was "patently racist."
However, he stated that the payout would ensure he would never work as a police officer again. Not the fact that he made a horribly biased, bigoted remark.
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"Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation's history and I'm hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House," Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.
It's 2019 and lynching still hasn't been properly outlawed. A bill, introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), was cleared on Thursday in the Senate to make lynching a federal crime. The measure will now go to the House. Harris, Booker and Scott are the only Black members of the Senate.
Harris tweeted on Thursday:
BREAKING: Our anti-lynching bill, which would make lynching a federal crime, just unanimously passed the Senate. Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation's history and I'm hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
It's outrageous that lynching still isn't considered a federal crime. Congress tried and failed near 200 times between 1882 to 1986. About to ask the Senate to unanimously pass our anti-lynching bill. Let's right this wrong.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
Congress has tried more than 200 times to pass an anti-lynching law, but has failed. The Senate passed a resolution in 2005, apologizing to lynching victims.
The bipartisan bill acknowledges the harms of lynching, which is a form of domestic terrorism, and the federal government's failure to stop it.
It defines the crime as "the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person."
In December, the Senate also passed the bill. But it was days before the 115th Congress went out of business, and the measure never reached the House floor.
"It's not the first time we've come down to this body to try to right the wrongs of history," Booker said on the Senate floor.
"For too long we have failed, failed to ensure justice for the victims of history and failed to make clear in the United States of America, in this great country, lynching is and always has been not only a federal crime but a moral failure."
According to the NAACP, "From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States."
"Of the total, 3,446 of the victims were Black, accounting for approximately 72.7 percent; and 1,297 were white, which is 27.3 percent."
"These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded," the organization stated.