Thousands of Sacramento residents will march from Southside Park to the Capitol in Sunday morning’s Pride Parade. Unlike last year and thanks to a last-minute reversal, police officers will join them – including Capt. Pam Seyffert, wearing a rainbow-colored pin and ribbon fixed to the front of her uniform.
Seyffert is openly lesbian and has worked in the Sacramento Police Department for 30 years, beginning as a community service officer. In 2016, she became a captain, making her one of two highest-ranking LGBTQ people on the force.
“People don’t understand it but we’re kind of like a destination department for LGBT people that want to be police officers,” Seyffert said. “And that’s not to say that we don’t have people who say silly things, or who you want to educate better. I’m not naive enough to think that it’s all roses. But we do a great job here.”
When Seyffert began at the department in 1989 she felt welcomed as a woman and a LGBTQ person but saw some other identities absent from the force. Now, that’s changed.
“Thirty years ago, we didn’t have out gay male officers,” she said. “In any organization, or really the world, that comes after people being comfortable with the women who are out. I don’t find that as really strange. But we had our first openly gay male police officer who was hired in 2002.”
Seyffert’s three decades on the force will end next Friday – just five days after she marches in the Pride parade. She’s spent the last few weeks of her career building a formal relationship with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, in addition to her usual role running the Kinney police facility, where the department’s North Command is based.
“This year it means more than anything to me as a police officer to be able to march,” Seyffert said. “To do it alongside my brothers and sisters in law enforcement is so special.”
Last week, the Center asked officers to leave their uniforms at home while attending Pride to respect LGBTQ community members. Soon after, representatives from both parties met, but the Center did not change its stance, said Carlos Marquez, the president of the Center’s Board of Directors.
But on Wednesday night, Seyffert and two other representatives from the police force met with Marquez in a smaller meeting at the Richards Police Facility. The gathering lasted more than four hours and ended around 10:45 p.m., Seyffert and Marquez said, and produced the first formalized partnership between the two groups.
Not everybody in the LGBTQ community is OK with the police presence.
In a news release, the #StillHere Alliance for Trans Rights claimed the Center’s agreement with the police is symptomatic of a broader marginalization of the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable members, including transgender people, low-income people and people of color, particularly minorities. The Alliance is leading a protest of the police involvement at 11 a.m. Sunday on the Capitol Mall.
In a joint statement released Thursday, the police and the Center outlined the new partnership. Officers will be welcome to Pride in uniform, and the police department will establish a LGBTQ community advisory committee. The department will also expand current LGBTQ-focused training, run community forums and create a liaison position, and establish a complaint-reporting system directly from the Center to the department.
“We wanted to ... give folks who have been marginalized some measure of confidence that they would have a platform to voice concerns,” Marquez said. “The ultimate goal we were trying to achieve is lasting and sustainable changes that would improve serve delivery to the LGBTQ community.”
Seyffert said police presence at parades can be contentious, even before the drama surrounding formal invitations and bans. But it can also be productive.
“Marching in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade, every single year you’ll have people that are happy to see you, but you’ll also be marching and someone next to you will be grumpy,” she said. “But if you try to strike up a conversation, before you know it you’ll have a really valuable conversation. It gives you an opportunity to engage that person, to show you’re just a human being, or to talk about tough topics.”
After hearing about the partnership, the Center’s staff released a statement Thursday that the revised decision “has deeply hurt and upset us as staff members, LGBTQ+ members and Sacramentans.” The statement called for the resignation of Marquez and any board members who agreed with his decision, and a reversion to the original decision. It requested a board response by 8 p.m. Thursday night.
As of Friday morning, the staff had no written response from the board, said Center spokesperson Krystal Peak. However, she said staff would be meeting at 10 a.m. – 25 hours before the beginning of Pride – and hoped some board members would attend.
Last year was the first time police were asked to not attend Pride in uniform, in response to the March 2018 killing of Stephon Clark by police.