SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for a Utah police officer that was suspended for reportedly refusing to work at a ‘gay pride’ parade says that the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) falsely told the media that he would not police the event, and explained that he rather asked to be reassigned from leading the parade.
As previously reported, the SLCPD told reporters last week that the unnamed police officer objected to a Sunday assignment at the Utah Pride parade on the basis of his personal beliefs.
Lara Jones, a spokesperson for SLCPD, said the officer should have left his personal beliefs “at home.”
“The vast majority of officers understand: When they put their badge on and come to work, they leave their personal beliefs at home, and we provide service to the community,” Jones stated, according to Fox 13.
“Officers are routinely assigned posts,” she added. “To have an officer object for, perhaps anything other than fitness for duty, physical fitness, etc., would be problematic to a smooth-functioning police department.”
Jones said the police department would not tolerate the officer’s personal beliefs.
“We don’t tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments,” she told local affiliate KSL.com. “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.”
The annual Utah Pride Festival is a three-day event organized by the Utah Pride Center, with this year’s festival taking place Friday through Sunday. According to the festival’s website, the event “grows bolder and brighter with every year.” A number of Mormons also attended this year’s event, many of which marched in the pride parade.
The Associated Press outlines that “[t]he parade featured the longtime signatures of gay pride parades: drag queens, scantily clad men in speedos and women in bikinis, but it also featured dozens of corporations and mainstream organizations marching in the parade and hundreds of families with small children watching.” In years past, some men have stood atop floats or marched in the streets wearing only their underwear.
Attorney Bret Rawson said on Monday that the SCLPD falsely told the media that his client refused to work the event, as he rather asked to be reassigned to behind-the-scenes work after he was to be a part of the motor team that leads the parade. He explained that leading the parade would give the appearance of advocacy, which conflicted with his religious beliefs.
“You are essentially participating in the actual parade,” Rawson told the Associated Press. “It’s more than doing traffic, or patrol or regular police duties.”
The police officer was placed on paid leave and subjected to an investigation because he had asked serve in another capacity besides leading the parade.
However, Rawson says that his client has now stepped down from his position as he does not feel that he can work at the department because of its hostility, and because of how the SLCPD misrepresented him to the media.
“He really did nothing improper,” Rawson stated. “He has never shown any prejudice or bigotry to any person in his role as a SLC police officer.”