Officer placed on leave for refusing Utah Pride Parade assignment

By McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

Published: Fri, June 6, 2014, 3:20 p.m. MDT

 June 2, 2013 - Pride Parade in Salt Lake City.

June 2, 2013 - Pride Parade in Salt Lake City.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake police officer has been placed on leave for refusing an assignment at this weekend's gay pride parade.

"We don't tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments," said department spokeswoman Lara Jones.

The officer is on paid administrative leave as the internal affairs unit reviews the situation, Jones said. He had been given a traffic control and public safety assignment.

The department has provided services at the Utah Pride Festival since its inception, as well as a host of other community events.

"We serve a variety of community events with similar functions, and to allow personal opinion to enter into whether an officer will take a post is not something that can be tolerated in a police department," Jones said.

Additionally, members of the Salt Lake City Police Department have marched in past Utah Pride parades, including Chief Chris Burbank who marched last year.

Burbank will be out of town this weekend, but three deputies will march in the parade Sunday, and the department's outreach and recruitment booth will be set up at the Utah Pride Festival on Saturday, Jones said.

"We have gay men and women who serve in the police department, and we are fully supportive and committed to, as Chief Burbank has made quite clear and his record speaks to, the city's nondiscrimination policy," Jones said.

Utah Pride Center spokeswoman Deann Armes issued a statement Friday thanking the department for its stance.

"Our goal is to make sure that police training and certification includes policies and oaths to ensure that all officers are committed to providing equal service and treatment of all citizens. Clearly, bigotry is alive and well, and our attorney general upholding discrimination by fighting marriage equality is not helping to reduce discrimination by our police officers," the statement said.

A 10th Circuit judge ruled last month against a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police captain who filed a civil rights complaint when his department required some officers to attend a law enforcement appreciation event at a local mosque if there wasn't a sufficient number of volunteers. The officers were not required to attend the mosque's prayer service.

The police captain was transferred to another division and an internal affairs investigation was launched, according to court documents.

Members of the Islamic society put on the event to thank the department for protecting them after them after threats were made against them. An estimated 150 officers volunteered to attend the event after the captain launched his complaint.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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1. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
June 6, 2014

This police officer wasn't assigned to protect citizens in the parade. He was assigned to march in the parade. I can fully understand why he wouldn't want to join in as a participant in the Gay Pride parade. The gay movement is turning our society upside down. He should no more be punished for this as for refusing to march in a Neo-Nazi parade. People have a right to live by their convictions.

And for all you gay folks that will say this is bigotry: There's nothing hateful about just staying home.

2. Northern Utahn
Northern, UT,
June 6, 2014

This story doesn't say that he was assigned to march in the parade. What makes you think that?

3. Crusader
Layton, UT,
June 6, 2014

How do you know that he was assigned to march in the parade?

4. wbl2745
Provo, UT,
June 6, 2014

Reading the article, there didn't appear to be any indication that the officer was asked to march as a participant in the parade. Three of the deputy police chiefs were asked to do so, but I didn't see anything that said that the officer had to do anything else than his job, providing security for the parade.

Personally, I think there is a strong case for firing the officer. What if he responded to a crime at the home of an LGBT couple? Would he refuse to assist? Would we tolerate an officer who for personal beliefs refused to assist a black family, a Jewish person, or a Muslim? Our police are tasked to protect and assist everyone and to enforce the law. There's nothing illegal about the LGBT parade.

5. Northern Utahn
Northern, UT,
June 6, 2014

Are officers allowed to decline assignments on holidays, during religious events, etc? wbl2745 makes a great point, at what point does it become untenable for public SERVANTS to quit "serving" the people that are being forced to pay their salaries?