SALT LAKE CITY – An officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department has been put on paid administrative leave after he reportedly refused an assignment to work during the weekend’s Utah Pride Festival Parade.
Police officials have not identified the officer or explained why he refused to work an assignment during Sunday’s parade, but they said it was for personal reasons and the incident has sparked an internal affairs investigation. Officers assigned to the parade generally help direct traffic and provide security, and it is likely the officer in question would have been involved in that capacity.
Steven Ha is the executive director of the Utah Pride Center, and he spoke about the officer’s decision.
"Clearly the officer's act was more than just smelling of bigotry, but I think the act was bigotry, choosing to not do a duty that is sworn by police officers to do,” Ha said.
Officials with Salt Lake City police said Chief Chris Burbank has ridden in previous pride parades and has been very involved with outreach to the LGBTQ community. Officials with the department said bigotry will not be tolerated.
"The vast majority of officers understand: When they put their badge on and come to work, they leave their personal beliefs at home, and we provide service to the community,” said Lara Jones, who is a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Jones said the officer’s refusal is a concern for them.
"Officers are routinely assigned posts,” Jones said. “To have an officer object for, perhaps anything other than fitness for duty, physical fitness etc., would be problematic to a smooth-functioning police department."
Ha said the situation is a cause for concern.
"I think an individual in any community, of any race, would be concerned that an officer is not able to carry out the duty of that officer,” Ha said. “And so we need to look at reviewing police training and policies at the state level that passes down to the enforcement down to local police departments."