Uniformed cops can now march at Sacramento Pride, police department will form LGBTQ panel

Under a new agreement, uniformed police officers will be allowed to participate in Sacramento PRIDE events this weekend, and a new set of police department policies will be enacted to build trust with the LGBTQ community.

The move, announced in a Thursday news release by the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento LGBT Community Center, reversed a decision the center announced last week that uniformed officers would not be allowed to participate in order to protect LGBTQ people, especially transgender people and LGBTQ people of color who “experience fear and anxiety provoked by the uniform.”

“As part of the partnership, all police officers, many of whom are LGBTQ themselves, will be welcome in uniform at SacPride and those who have been or feel disenfranchised by law enforcement will now have a platform upon which to seek improvements,” the release said.

The police department agreed to create an LGBTQ liaison in its outreach unit, and create a standing “LGBT Community Advisory Committee” to recommend policies to better serve the LGBTQ community and “remove all barriers” for the community to interact with law enforcement, the release said. The department will also co-create a new training program that “elevates the voices of marginalized LGBTQ community members and discusses the role of implicit bias,” the release said.

The groups also agreed to start hosting community forums with Police Chief Daniel Hahn, LGBT Center officials, LGBTQ officers and interested LGBTQ residents, and to create a program within the Center for community members to report crimes and complaints to the police, the release said.

“This agreement reflects so much of what I love about our city, the embrace of dialogue and the building of bridges,” Steve Hansen, the city’s first openly gay City Council member, said in the release. “We owe it to all members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender or people of color, to ensure their voice is heard and their safety be paramount every day all day. We also owe it to the LGBTQ officers and allies to recognize their pioneering role in opening up law enforcement careers to people of diverse backgrounds. Above all else, we owe it to our City and residents to show the power of neighborliness in working together to promote a welcoming, safe, and supportive community.”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote on Twitter he was “proud of our city’s ability to navigate conflict.”

“It’s not always easy but the tough talks help all of us build a better community together,” the mayor wrote.

The agreement was a product of meetings between the two groups in late May, the release said.

“Everyone at the table listened, heard one another, and spoke from the heart, making it apparent everyone had the same desire to do what is best for the community,” Hahn said in the release. “It’s a complex landscape but ultimately boils down to a simple shared desire: we all want to be accepted for who we are and to feel safe and welcome in our own communities.”

The strengthened partnership is about “healing and propelling us forward,” said Carlos Marquez, the Center’s board president.

“The Stonewall riots were an uprising against law enforcement led by transgender women of color like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and queer youth, many of them poor, against unjust raids, abuses and violence,” Marquez said in the release. “Fifty years later, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the vestiges of indifference, fear and bias from that period still lurk within our city today. We cannot be surprised when those for whom law enforcement has been historically and disproportionately applied are stricken with fear by the sight of a uniform nor can we be surprised when banning that uniform doesn’t bring about the deeper change we seek.”

Police Capt. Pam Seyffert, who is openly LGBTQ, said there is a “culture of inclusion” inside the department and community.

“The uniform opens the doors to tough conversations that we will never shy away from,” Seyffert said in the release.

The department’s “gender awareness” class has trained about 700 employees on issues related to gender-identity, the release said.

Uniformed cops did not participate in the event last year. This year, officers were invited to attend in plain clothes as a “compromise,” the Center wrote in a Facebook post last week.

Events for SacPride 2019 will begin Saturday morning at Capitol Mall.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.