First African-American police chief in Bedford makes history

Ronnie Lewis has been sworn in as the Chief of the Bedford Police Department, becoming the first African-American to hold that seat.

Associated Press

Special Media re-post from WFXR News Virginia

Posted: May 18, 2022 / 09:27 PM EDT

Updated: May 19, 2022 / 08:41 AM EDT

There’s a new history-making police chief in the Town of Bedford.

Ronnie Lewis has been sworn in as the Chief of the Bedford Police Department, becoming the first African-American to hold that seat.

Lewis says he wouldn’t be in this position without the people who paved the way for him.

“One of the things that I always think about is the people that opened doors before me,” said Lewis. “They did all the heavy lifting to make sure I would have this opportunity.”

This reflection makes him want to put his best foot forward in his new role.

“I try to make sure I respect that by doing the best job that I can, so I can continue to open doors for other people who may not see themselves as chiefs,” Lewis said. “I’m hoping they can see me in this chair and say you know what I want to become a chief.”

Lewis says he understands that there are existing tensions between the black community and police officers. He wants to help bring them together.

“I try to focus on the community that I’m in. One of the things that I’m going to do and strive to do is build that bridge between all the citizens in the Town of Bedford,” explained Lewis.

A barber named Jonathan Hayden, who cuts hair at Status barber shop, says he’s open to that bridge.

“When it boils down to it, whether he’s white or Black, as long as he comes to the area and does what he’s supposed to do,” said Hayden.

Hayden says having the new police chief will help to continue to break barriers.

“We are small knit and change doesn’t happen a lot,” Hayden told WFXR News. “But for them to actually see us get out here and be successful in whatever we wanna do, whether it’s being the chief of police, a sheriff, a DJ, or a barber, it gives people, especially kids, something to look up to.”

When speaking with WFXR News, Lewis referenced a book he read about the origins of policing. There are two very important principles from that book that he carries with him — the police are the public and the public is the police.

In other words, he says all of the Bedford community members and the police are in this together.

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