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Why banning the NYPD at NYC Pride is unsafe and unprogressive

This annual celebration of inclusivity is now exclusive of hundreds of gay officers who risk their lives daily and serve their communities with dignity and honor


In this Sunday, June 29, 2014 file photo, NYPD police officers march along Fifth Avenue during the gay pride parade in New York. Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said Saturday, May 15, 2021 they are banning police and other law enforcement from marching in their huge annual parade until at least 2025 and will also seek to keep on-duty officers a block away from the event.

AP Photo/Julia Weeks, File

It was with great dismay that I read about the decision to ban law enforcement groups from the New York City Pride Parade and related events through the year 2025, and reduce NYPD presence at the event.

As a gay woman, former police officer and past attendee of NYC Pride, this decision feels dehumanizing as it is counterproductive toward the ideals that are championed by this very event. Pride, an annual celebration of inclusivity, is now exclusive of hundreds of gay police officers who risk their lives daily and serve their communities with dignity and honor.

Organizers have cited the comfort level of participants as a major reason for this decision; however, do gay officers not also have a right to feel included in the LGBTQ community of which they are members? Further, will this decision dissuade members of the LGBTQ community who are considering a career in law enforcement? If so, it runs counter to the goal of inclusivity in policing.

Event security

Even more critical than comfort levels at mass gatherings in these unpredictable times is participant safety. Yet in addition to the ban on marching in the parade, there is an effort to significantly decrease the numbers of NYPD members providing services and emergency response at these events.

In place of the NYPD is the proposition to reallocate as many law enforcement event security responsibilities to private security and other community groups as possible. In terms of community safety best practices, this is misguided. Private security personnel do not have the same authority nor abilities as police officers. Private security professionals do play important and skilled roles in ensuring safety at large gatherings, however, this is almost always done in concert with police officers and municipal resources. Simply stated, if a major situation unfolds, the first phone calls will be to the NYPD who, despite having been banned from the event, will dutifully respond.

Given the current uptick in hate crimes and violence against LGBTQ persons, it seems irresponsible to make any decision that could be interpreted by those wishing to do harm as a decrease in security, especially at an event like NYC Pride. We do not have the luxury in these times to be dismissive of the potential for violence at mass gatherings. Before making decisions concerning the utility and placement of the NYPD at this event, it would be prudent for organizers to review the data on the perpetrators of violence and hate crimes targeting members of the LGBTQ community and conduct a threat assessment.

In short, the question all parties must answer is this: Are we willing to compromise public safety by delaying responses and experimenting with new security operations at a massive event like NYC Pride?

Reframing policing

This latest issue is representative of the greater struggle society is grappling with in terms of reframing policing. In the case of the NYPD ban at NYC Pride, two aspects of the struggle are highlighted:

  • First, we cannot pick and choose when and where sworn police officers are expected or permitted to uphold their duties in public spaces without significant changes to the law.
  • Second, as a society, we cannot demand more representation and inclusivity among police ranks and then outcast the men and women representing that inclusivity in police departments at events such as NYC Pride

As a member of the LGBTQ community who no longer serves in the capacity of a police officer, I am truly comforted to know there are so many LGBTQ officers not only serving on the force but steadily rising through the ranks. I am lucky to call some of these men and women my closest friends. They deserve to march and be represented for the monumental sacrifices they and their families make daily.

This is a two-way street. Policing is making significant strides on many matters related to inclusivity within the ranks and among the communities they are serving. None of us are perfect; all of us are trying. It is time for other factions of society to also be accountable to a definition of inclusivity that truly means inclusivity and to be more mindful of the messaging they are broadcasting. If for no other reason, our safety and future depend on it.

Janay Gasparini, Ph.D., is a former full-time police officer who served as a police instructor, FTO and crime scene technician. She currently works part-time for the Town of New Paltz, New York Police Department. Gasparini has taught collegiate criminal justice courses since 2009 and is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York - Ulster. She also serves as the Police Basic Training Coordinator between SUNY Ulster and the Ulster County Law Enforcement Training Group, Kingston, New York.