You may notice less of a police presence at this weekend’s Silicon Valley Pride Parade, but it has nothing to do with public safety. For the first time ever, law enforcement officers in uniform were not invited to participate in the parade. That means uniformed San Jose Police officers and Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies are not welcome to walk, wave, and hold flags.
Police officers wearing their uniforms led by the police chief have long been a part of past parades as a way for police to show support for the LGBTQ community.
“We had heard from some of our community members that they wouldn’t feel safe with an excessive amount of police presence. This was a decision that was not made lightly by our board of directors,” Silicon Valley Pride CEO Nicole Altamirano told NBC Bay Area. Some officers, including ones who are a part of the LGBTQ community, are outraged. “It does a disservice to the officers of the department to show that we are able to be ourselves, our true authentic selves when we thought a community that would never turn us away, is turning us away,” an anonymous officer told NBC Bay Area.
The San Jose Police Officers Association also blasted the decision. “When this decision was made to exclude our very own LGBTQ officers who are part of that community, it’s just extremely frustrating and just really truly disappointing. To bar uniformed officers from participating in the parade is the height of hypocrisy really, I mean those that made this short-sighted decision should be ashamed of themselves,” SJPOA president Sean Pritchard told KPIX.
Organizers are allowing officers to walk in the parade if they wear civilian clothing. San Jose Police Chief Tony Mata is expected to walk in plain clothing along with other officers. Mata was also their Thursday for the rainbow flag raising at city hall and for a flag-raising marking pride month in June at police headquarters. Mata said in a statement this week, “we look forward to participating again next year and showing our pride. Not only in our profession but also supporting our LGBTQ+ officers”
Some believe keeping uniformed officers out of this year’s parade will keep an important issue front and center with the police chief. “The reforms that need to happen in the police department, he is taking to heart so the police are not a danger to us, but a support to us,” Gabrielle Antolovich of the Billy Defrank Center told NBC Bay Area.
Of course, you will still see officers in uniform all around the parade, but they are solely there for the purpose of public safety.