A retired Philadelphia police captain arrested in uniform during Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City has received written warnings from police and union officials.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey sent a cease-and-desist letter to retired Capt. Raymond Lewis, saying that the Police Department supported his First Amendment rights but that "those rights do not extend to the improper and/or illegal use of the official uniform."
"It could give the mistaken opinion that somehow this is a statement being made by a member of the Police Department, and it's not," Ramsey said in a telephone interview Thursday. "He has every right to protest. But wear something else."
John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he wanted Lewis to be ousted from the union and to lose his retirement benefits.
"I champion him for going up there and pleading his case, but he shouldn't have done it in a police uniform," McNesby said. "When he put the freaking uniform on is when he crossed the . . . line."
In a written statement, Lewis said: "I find it incredibly interesting that there are former Philadelphia police officers who were convicted of crimes, and served prison sentences, that have NOT had their memberships or pensions revoked."
Lewis, a 24-year veteran, retired eight years ago and joined the Occupy Wall Street protest Nov. 15 in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.
Two days after he joined the movement, Lewis was arrested on his 60th birthday on charges of disorderly conduct and related offenses when he sat in the middle of Wall Street with other protesters.
Whether at a demonstration for Occupy Wall Street or another cause, Ramsey said, wearing a uniform in a nonprofessional capacity is unacceptable - and could even lead to charges of impersonating a police officer. "It has nothing whatsoever to do with the specific issues they're talking about," Ramsey said.