Utah police officer on leave for refusing Gay Pride Parade assignment
A Salt Lake City police officer has been put on leave due to allegations that he refused to work at this weekend's Utah Pride Parade.
"If you refuse to do an assignment, that's going to be a problem inside the police department," police spokeswoman Lara Jones said Friday of the need for officers to follow orders.
Internal affairs officers are investigating the officer's refusal while he is on paid leave, Jones confirmed.
She would not discuss the officer's reason for refusing the assignment, but said: "The vast majority of officers, when they come to work, they understand that they leave their personal opinions at home and serve the community."
Jones said about 30 officers are scheduled to provide traffic control and security for the 120-entry parade, Utah's premier LGBT celebration. The parade begins at 10 a.m. Sunday in downtown Salt Lake City.
"We have provided public safety services to this event since its inception," Jones said.
Police Chief Chris Burbank has marched in the parade in previous years; this year three deputy chiefs are marching in his stead while he is out of town. The police department also will have a community outreach and recruitment booth at the Utah Pride festival on Saturday, and participates in a standing committee to address public safety issues relating to LGBT residents, Jones said.
"We have gay men and women that serve in the police department," Jones said. "One officer's situation does not reflect the vast majority of officers that work in the Salt Lake City Police Department, and certainly not Chief Burbank's.
"Personal opinions in the police department have evolved along with the community," she added.
The department staffs several community events in Salt Lake City, Jones said, the Days of '47 Parade and the Salt Lake City Marathon being among the largest. For those events, officers are asked to sign up for duties of their choosing before commanders fill empty posts by assignment, Jones said.
The Utah Pride Parade is a smaller event, so all officers involved were assigned.
Ranking officers over internal affairs cannot remember a previous event in which an officer refused an assignment because of personal reservations, Jones said.
However, she said, with a department of more than 400 employees and a city that employs hundreds more, "H.R. issues like this I wouldn't say are routine but are not unexpected, and we have a process to deal with them and provide due process to those involved."
Jones would not confirm the identity of the officer placed on leave; The Tribune could not reach him for confirmation or comment. A union leader said the officer is not a member.