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Paso robles chief of police reveals thoughts on the black lives matter movement


Ty Lewis reveals a police officer’s perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement along with Vice President of the Black Student Union, Zaira Gomez  

An estimated group of 100 protesters* gathered at the intersection of 12th and Pine Street in downtown Paso Robles on June 3, 2020 to participate in a protest for the Black Lives Matter movement. The protesters were there to honor the death of George Floyd, a black man who had died after having been in police custody in Minneapolis just a week before. 

Paso Robles Police Chief, Ty Lewis was present at the event as well; Lewis talked to protesters and remained vigilant to ensure no criminal acts ensued. Police officers and protesters were seen kneeling together during the event as a Paso Robles resident led the group in prayer, *according to live updates of the protest by the San Luis Obispo Tribune. 

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Mixed into the crowd of protesters was Zaira Gomez, Vice President of the Black Student Union at Paso Robles High School. Gomez recalled feeling disturbed as she participated in the protest, feeling intimidated by the presence of police and individuals holding flags that read “Make America Great Again.” Gomez could also recall that an individual was shouting derogatory remarks at the protesters. 

Vice President of the Black Student Union at Paso Robles High School, junior Zaira Gomez.

“[The protest] was peaceful and educational but then people showed up that would circle around downtown with their Trump flags yelling “all lives matter.” It was disturbing, but it made the people who attended the protest want to be louder.”

Zaira Gomez

“It was a total of about 30 people and 10 cops [at the time]. I felt unsafe being there because even though we were being peaceful and respecting everybody else’s space, the cops were all around us as if [they were] intimidating us.  That was the same day that a video was shared on social media where somebody had a whip and was saying derogatory words and phrases like “I’ll take care of that ‘n-word’ ,” Gomez stated. 

An activist and ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement

As a junior at Paso Robles High School, this is Gomez’ first year as a member of the Black Student Union. Her history of  advocating for social justice and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement began at a young age, and she strives to better inform herself and others about issues concerning racial inequality in America.

Gomez believes that her identity as an ally to the BLM movement stems from feeling inspired by the advisors of the ACT club and the Black Student Union, Geoffrey Land and Alisa Bredensteiner, respectively, and her years of listening to the voices of friends that came from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

“I will use my voice as much as I can to raise awareness on our current problems regarding racial inequality; I am an ally and will always stand for justice. My history as an advocate and ally to the BLM movement has always been with me since I was very young. I remember [as I grew up] I always had very diverse friendships and learned so much simply by listening. Some of my friends were African American and I remember learning about topics like civil rights in class and not understanding why such hate was still happening after many years,” Gomez stated. 

Another ally to the BLM movement, Paso Robles High School junior Milan Bolden, has a call-to-action for fellow supporters of the movement, imploring them to speak their minds and to continue to protest for black issues.

Paso Robles High School Junior, Milan Bolden.

“Anyone who supports the BLM movement should never stand down or be afraid to speak their minds.”

Milan Bolden




“It’s important that they let their voices be heard, keep an open mind, and continue signing petitions or rallying/protesting against the brutality and racial profiling that this minority group faces daily,” Bolden stated.

Visions of a safe, reliable police department

In light of sentiments throughout the nation that call into question the good-nature of police officers, Paso Robles Police Chief, Ty Lewis, upholds a vision that the operations of the police department will lead to a safer city with citizens that trust the police. 

Paso Robles Chief of Police, Ty Lewis.

“One of my visions for the police department is to make us the safest and most trusted city anywhere. Trust is a huge factor for us, we know that we can’t do our jobs unless we have the trust of the community”

Ty Lewis

Lewis asserts that incidents like the death of Floyd lead to tensions between community members and their police department, and to avoid those incidents, a goal of officer training is to make sure that their actions are fair to the community, as well as their judgement being free of any bias. 

“It’s certainly disheartening when you see incidents like with George Floyd; It underscores some of the disconnect and distrust towards police that occurs in those larger communities, as well as with marginalized elements of our community. A lot of those issues have to do with training, especially with Floyd . I don’t think there are many police officers out there that would defend the actions that occurred, they’d say that there definitely was a better way to handle that situation. In Paso Robles we make sure to hire the right people and to give them the best training that we can afford. Making sure that your actions are fair and impartial to the community is something that’s one of our main tenets,” Lewis stated. 

Defunding the Police

Incidents like the death of Floyd and the BLM movement also have implications for the future in the form of new political discussions about defunding the police. For Gomez, defunding the police wouldn’t mean taking all of their resources, but rather limiting them in the hopes of reducing the impact that racially-charged actions would have on communities. Gomez also thinks that police should be better trained if their goal is protecting people’s lives. 

“I believe that when people say ‘defund the police,’ they don’t mean taking away all of their money and power, but to give it a certain limit that would eventually stop the terror from the police. I think that building a better system where police are better trained is essential in our country because the labor that is put into being a cop should meet higher needs if they are here to protect our lives,” Gomez stated. 

Lewis believes that defunding the police would have an opposite effect, that less funding and resources for the police would mean worse training and that officers wouldn’t have the tools needed to carry out their jobs.

“I think that [defunding the police] would have the opposite of the intended consequence that some people want because we would have less money for training.”

Ty Lewis

Lewis also contends that the majority of people in Paso Robles don’t have interest in limiting police resources and that different people mean different things when they discuss defunding the police; some of the arguments are that the resources given to police would be better spent in other ways. 

“I also think that overall the sentiment in Paso Robles is that the vast majority of people have no interest in [defunding the police], nor does the city council. While it might be an issue in other communities I don’t know that it has much relevance here, at least currently. It also has different meanings to different people, some people mean that they don’t need a police department and would rather spend the money in other places, some people instead [want to] redirect [money] to mental health or alcohol resources or to other at-risk portions of the community,” Lewis concluded. 

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