San Jose cops asked not to march in uniform at Silicon Valley Pride

The move surprised some, given how openly supportive the department has been of the LGBTQ+ community in the past

By Sal Pizarro
Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There were smiles all around when the San Jose Police Department raised the LGBTQ Pride flag at its headquarters in June, but its relationship with Silicon Valley Pride may become more complicated after the nonprofit asked uniformed officers not to march in Sunday's parade in downtown San Jose.

It's a very surprising request given how the San Jose Police Department has made public moves to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community, including its own officers and non-sworn staff. In addition to raising the flag at police headquarters and establishing an LGBTQ Advisory Board and community liaison, SJPD introduced an optional rainbow-bordered shoulder patch last year that officers are authorized to wear during Pride month and related activities.

San Jose Police officers march with friends and family in the Silicon Valley Pride parade in August 2018.
San Jose Police officers march with friends and family in the Silicon Valley Pride parade in August 2018. (San Jose Police Department)

KPIX-TV first reported that Silicon Valley Pride said law enforcement officers are welcome to walk in the parade in civilian clothes and had met with San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata's office about the issue. In a statement released by the department, Mata said, "The San Jose Police Department has worked, and will continue to work to forge strong relationships with every segment of our community. We look forward to participating in next year's Silicon Valley Pride Parade by marching in uniform, as we have in years past."

That tradition seems to be over for this year's parade, the centerpiece of a two-day celebration that includes a festival at Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

No one is saying publicly why Silicon Valley Pride has taken this position, but a San Jose Police Department source said LGBTQ officers within the department are deeply upset by the decision. They claim Silicon Valley Pride explained its reasoning as wanting to avoid the recent negative stigma related to the police and to take a neutral stance, though many officers don't see the move as neutral. Police departments across the nation have been under increased scrutiny in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and other recent incidents.

Silicon Valley Pride representatives didn't respond to requests for further comment. Their move follows a similar one by San Francisco Pride last year to ban that city's uniformed police officers from participating in the June 2021 parade, which ultimately was canceled.

[RELATED: Why banning the NYPD at NYC Pride is unsafe and unprogressive]

Sean Pritchard, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, told KPIX that banning uniformed law enforcement was "short-sighted" and the "height of hypocrisy."

"When this decision was made to exclude our very own LGBTQ officers who are part of that community," Pritchard said, "it's just extremely frustrating and just really truly disappointing."


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