Sacramento, CA – Organizers of the Sacramento Pride events have banned uniformed law enforcement officers from participating in this year's annual festival and parade, because they claim police make citizens feel uncomfortable.
Sacramento Police Officer Jeff Kuhlmann, who is gay, said that he was shocked to learn that he and his colleagues were not welcome at the Pride events, KCRA reported.
“People said that they’re not comfortable with officers in uniform,” Officer Kuhlmann told the news outlet. “That’s one of the things that we’re trying to fix. We want to make sure people are comfortable walking up to a police officer when they see them in a police uniform.”
The 15-year veteran-of-the-force became a symbol of marriage equality in 2015, when his photo appeared in Time magazine, KTXL reported.
Sacramento LGBT Center Executive Director David Heitstuman argued that Pride was founded five decades ago as part of the “original Stonewall riots, which was an uprising against police brutality.”
"Not everyone feels safe in the presence of uniforms," Heitstuman said.
“There is a lot of unrest in our community right now,” he told KCRA. “There’s not a lot of trust in police institutions. Not just in the LGBTQ community, but certainly in the black community and other communities of color. Those folks are also marginalized in our community.”
But Officer Kuhlmann said that banning uniformed law enforcement officers from the celebration is a step back.
“I’ve been to too many Pride events in the past where I’ve been in the uniform and been able to be part of those events where I can express who I am as a police officer for my city,” he told KCRA. “I would like to be able to continue that.”
On May 29, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn and approximately 10 officers met with LGBT Center board members and Heitstuman to discuss the issue, but nothing much was accomplished, KTXL reported.
"I think all of us walked away from that meeting feeling disappointed," Officer Kuhlmann said.
Heitstuman said that uniformed law enforcement officers may be able to participate in Pride events in the future, but that they need to do more to rebuild trust in the community first, KCRA reported.
Officer Kuhlmann argued that allowing them to participate in the parade and festival would do just that.
In January, Pride organizers also banned uniformed law enforcement officers from taking place in such events in Toronto.