Metro Weekly

San Francisco Pride Reaches “Compromise” over Uniformed Police Officers

On-duty officers will be allowed to wear class AA uniforms in parade, while off-duty officers must dress more casually.

An officer marches with her partner in the San Francisco Pride Parade – Photo: Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and members of the city’s police department will march during this year’s Pride parade following a compromise brokered between police and organizers of San Francisco Pride.

Originally, Pride organizers had sought to enforce a 2020 policy, developed in response to confrontations that occurred during the 2019 Pride Parade between police and several demonstrators, who had been protesting the presence of police and involvement of corporations at Pride events. During the scuffle, officers arrested several individuals, and some protesters claimed they were shoved or injured by police.

As a result of outcry from the community — as well as claims that transgender individuals and LGBTQ people of color who have had negative encounters with law enforcement may be “triggered” by seeing officers in uniform — Pride moved to bar LGBTQ police officers from marching in uniform in the parade, which did not take place for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, LGBTQ officers would be allowed to march in T-shirts with their law enforcement agency’s logo, but not professional uniforms with a badge. 

But LGBTQ officers in the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance argued that the uniform ban forces them to “closet” part of their identity to gain acceptance from the wider community — something they say runs counter to the purported values underlying the Pride Parade.

In solidarity with police, and in protest of the ban, San Francisco Mayor London Breed vowed last month not to march in Pride parade, scheduled for June 26.

In addition to Breed, city firefighters and sheriff’s deputies also vowed not to participate in the parade, as did out gay Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who prior to being appointed to the Board of Supervisors had worked for the San Francisco Police Department as its highest-ranking civilian, handling strategic communications. The public relations nightmare, and the trickle of announced plans to boycott the event, prompted Pride organizers to come to the table to try to reach a compromise.

As part of the compromise, the details of which are still forthcoming, all first responders will march in one contingent, with police and fire department command staff wearing their class AA uniforms, and a small number of on-duty LGBTQ uniformed police officers providing security for the contingent, according to a joint statement from San Francisco Pride and the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance. All other off-duty officers will wear casual Pride apparel with police department logos as previously allowed by Pride organizers.

“Pride grew out of conflicts between LGBTQ communities and police at Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall Inn. Ever since then, we have attempted to bridge that divide. That is why we are grateful to have reached a compromise solution today. It shows everyone is working in the spirit of Pride to come together!” the groups said in a joint statement.

The groups also agreed to other action items, with the Pride Alliance agreeing to work with Police Chief William Scott’s office to “reinvigorate” the chief’s LGBTQ Police Advisory Forum, and working with San Francisco Pride to ensure those selected for the forum represent the full diversity of the city’s LGBTQ community. The Pride Alliance and San Francisco Pride will also host a series of community discussions bringing together the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ officers, with discussions occurring at LGBTQ-affirming spaces to ensure the events are accessible to all.

“I think it was important from our point of view to make sure members of our community who historically haven’t had a voice, to make sure that was heard and elevated. And that’s the job, that’s San Francisco Pride,” San Francisco Pride Executive Director Suzanne Ford told NBC affiliate KNTV.

“One thing that we really stressed, we wanted to really trust our officers to know what it was to be casual, what it was to dress it down a bit,” added San Francisco Pride President Carolyn Wysinger.

Scott, the city’s police chief, said in a statement to CNN that he is pleased the officers will be allowed to march in uniform and that the department is committed to “continuing the very important conversations that have taken place over the last 18 months” with the LGBTQ community.

Following the announcement of the compromise, Breed said she now plans to march in the parade.

“I appreciate how our LGBTQ police officers and public safety workers came together with the Pride Board to come up with a compromise,” she said in a statement. “The understanding and respect they showed each other is reflective of this year’s pride theme: love brings us together. Pride Month brings people from around the world to celebrate in San Francisco and I am proud of everyone involved who listened to each other this past week and focused on what unites us.”

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