SACRAMENTO — It’s an event that’s supposed to be all about inclusion, but for LGBTQ police officers in the city who’ve braved discrimination to be out in life and at work, they say their own community is excluding them from participating in PRIDE in uniform.
“It was … it was shocking,” said Officer Jeff Kuhlmann.
With a photo in Time magazine, Kuhlmann became a national symbol of the Supreme Court’s support for marriage equality in 2015.
Now in his 15th year on the force, he’s been told that as a gay man he can’t march in his own city’s PRIDE parade dressed as he appears on patrol.
“It happened because of certain people in the community being uncomfortable with seeing uniformed police officers at the PRIDE event,” he said.
“The foundation of PRIDE 50 years ago was the original Stonewall riots which was an uprising against police brutality,” explained David Heitstuman, executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Center.
“Not everyone feels safe in the presence of uniforms,” he said.
LGBTQ officers FOX40 spoke to say the battle over such issues surrounding PRIDE has lasted for weeks.
We asked Heitstuman if the Sacramento police department was disinvited over the uniform issue and had submitted fees and paperwork for the PRIDE parade, gala and an outreach booth returned?
He said, “I think that’s a pretty extreme way of articulating what happened.”
At a two-hour Wednesday meeting, Chief Hahn, Heitstuman, LGBT center board members and about 10 officers tried to hash out the differences – but each side seems to have a very different perception of what happened.
“I thought we had a really productive meeting with the chief and with the officers,” said Heitsuman.
“I think all of us walked away from that meeting feeling disappointed,” said Kuhlmann.
For years, uniformed gay, trans and cisgender Sacramento officers have staffed outreach booths and marched in PRIDE.
Last year was the first time they were asked not to participate in uniform, as the community grappled with the police killing of Stephon Clark.
Understanding the kind of pain members of the public were feeling, they did not.
Officers say re-entering PRIDE was to be one more way they’re working to rebuild trust in the community.
For them, wearing their academy polos or regular t-shirts wouldn’t help the public see them as regular people and get more comfortable approaching them.
Officers have been warned by event organizers that even in their polos, protests of their presence are likely.
At the PRIDE gala set for Saturday, members plan to wear suits and dresses instead of their uniforms as they had hoped.
A decision about non-uniform participation in next weekend’s PRIDE festival and parade should come in the next few days.
Initiatives for the event which refer to police presence were published by the LGBT Center Friday afternoon as FOX40 was making inquiries about the uniform issue.
Officers were planning to march with rainbow patches on their uniformed shoulders, much like the pink ones they added to their garb during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
FOX40 is a sponsor of Sacramento PRIDE 2019.
The Sacramento police department has released the following statement about what’s happened:
“Our police department is disappointed that the LGBT Center does not want our officers attending upcoming public community events while in uniform. We support our LGBTQ officers who proudly serve our community on a daily basis. They have worked hard to earn these uniforms and are proud to wear them.”