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The badge that bonds

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By Special to The Sun

Growing up, A.J. Lewis looked up to his father, Ray, as a hero who helped the people of Bardstown, but he also knew the dangers his father faced and would cry when he wasn’t home on time.

As an adult, A.J. now walks in his father’s footsteps, as Sgt. A.J. Lewis for the Springfield Police Department.

A.J. has been an officer for about a year and a half and is one of the few African-Americans to become sergeant in the region. Ray was the first African-American to become a major in Bardstown.

“I like what he did, and I wanted to be like him,” A.J. said.

Before A.J. wore a badge, he played semi-pro football for the Kentucky Wolverines in Elizabethtown and won a national championship. He also attended community college for a while and plans to return someday, he said.

A.J. said he learns a lot from his father, who has 23 years of police work under his belt.

“I’ve always wanted to be a policeman when I was younger, and why not be one in my hometown?” Ray said. “It’s been a good career and I love working here.”

Originally, Ray said he tried to talk A.J. out of pursuing a career in law enforcement because of the pay, safety and obstacles of working in their hometown or close to it, which can be complicated by friends who ask for favors.

“He looked up to me,” Ray said. “I couldn’t choose his career.”

Once A.J. chose to work as a police officer, his father said he has done everything he can to be helpful.

“We try to practice at the range together,” Ray said. “I try to explain to him about being safe. The main thing is understanding to treat people like people.”

Ray added that he uses the technique of speaking at a decent volume and not being nasty, and A.J. has implemented the technique into his own work as well.

“I’m a believer of trying to be tactful and you can never be too tactful, because you never know what can happen,” Ray said.

Ray and A.J. also said they believe in sending a positive image to people to gain their trust.

“You can’t be liked by everybody,” Ray said.

Since Ray has been on the force, he said he’s been through five Bardstown Police Chiefs and has liked all of them.

“It’s an honor to be selected as the assistant chief,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here unless it were for the civil rights movement in the 1960s and people like Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. They got the younger generation where they are today.”

Ray said the chief wants diversity in the department.

“You need to do that sometimes to have a mixture,” he said. “We have 26 different officers and 26 different attitudes.”

A.J. echoed his father, saying it’s an honor for him as well.

“I was my chief’s first hire,” he said. “He actually gave me the opportunity because he saw something in me.”

He added that he took his dad’s method of policing and brought it to Springfield, and now other officers in Springfield have picked it up.

Although Ray said he and his son work consistently on safety, the worry still exists.

Safety is a major aspect of police work, he said. There is more backup in Bardstown than in Springfield because it’s a larger city. 

“You can just get out on a traffic stop and get shot,” he said.

Through the danger and late nights as officers of the law, Ray and A.J. have become closer, they agreed.

“We do a lot of stuff as father and son,” Ray said.

They enjoy training together, going to University of Louisville football games, traveling together, watching NFL games and they even live together.

Even though A.J. and his father are close, he isn’t an only child. He has two sisters who could possibly keep the family business going.

“I’d love to see them in police work,” Ray said. “I’ve tried to talk my older daughter into applying.”