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Ex-Philly police captain arrested at NY Occupy rally is warned to not wear uniform at protests
PHILADELPHIA (AP) ' 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.
Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey sent a cease and desist letter to retired Capt. Raymond Lewis, saying the police department supports his First Amendment rights but "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 telephone interview Thursday. "He has every right to protest. But wear something else."
The November Occupy protest featured people complaining about economic inequality and what they called corporate greed.
Ramsey said it doesn't matter whether it's a demonstration for Occupy Wall Street or another cause, wearing a uniform in a non-professional 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. "Whether I agree or disagree with what they're saying, that uniform can't be caught up in that."
Lewis said the Fraternal Order of Police union local has filed a grievance against him stemming from last month's incident and provided a letter to that effect signed by the local's recording secretary, Robert Ballentine. A message left for Ballantine seeking comment Thursday wasn't immediately returned.
The Fraternal Order of Police letter, dated Nov. 25, states the grievance was submitted "based on Lewis' comments and actions ... while dressed in a Philadelphia Police Captain's uniform at the New York City Occupy Wall Street protest, which also resulted in his arrest."
In a written statement, Lewis said he believes the Fraternal Order of Police is seeking to revoke his union membership and possibly his pension.
"I find it incredibly interesting," Lewis said, "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."
The Fraternal Order of Police letter only said the union's grievance committee would contact Lewis "as this matter progresses."