SALT LAKE CITY -- A police officer has "separated from the department" over accusations he refused to work in the Utah Pride Parade, according to his lawyer.
The officer's attorney, Bret Rawson, told FOX 13 that his client worked on the motorcycle squadron for the Salt Lake City Police Department and was uncomfortable with his role at the pride parade.
Rawson said the officer has "conservative, religious beliefs" and felt that riding with the motorycle squad would be seen as "advocating in favor of the LGBTQ community, a position which made him uncomfortable given his personal and religious beliefs."
Rawson claims the officer had managed to trade roles with another officer, when department administration intervened and put him on suspension.
"He never flatly refused to do his job in that motorcade," Rawson said in an interview with FOX 13. "Instead of being given that opportunity, he was ridiculed in the press by allegations of bigotry and more."
On Friday, the officer was put on paid administrative leave after he reportedly refused an assignment during this past weekend’s Utah Pride Festival.
Art Raymond, spokesman for the mayor's office, said the officer is still on suspension and the investigation is ongoing. Neither Salt Lake City police nor the city attorney would comment. Rawson said his client had "separated from the department," meaning he was not anticipating returning to work.
Steven Ha, executive director of Utah Pride thinks putting the officer on leave was appropriate.
"It does give our community and I'm sure many other communities or individuals who are different, some comfort that we have a police administration that handles these things appropriately and they don't take it lightly," Ha said.
Ha believes the officer's actions were wrong for not being willing to participate in the parade.
"I think that gives an appearance that he was uncomfortable with associating with a group that has different beliefs from him and he wanted to create a distance from that group of people and that is wrong," Ha said.
FOX 13 News will continue to follow this story as it develops.
Read the full statement from Nelson Jones PLLC Attorneys and Counselors at Law below:
This office represents the Salt Lake City police officer who has been accused of refusing to work at the recent Pride Days Celebration. In fact, the officer did not refuse his assignment. The officer has never refused an assignment. Whether the
allegations are the result of misinformation from the Salt Lake City Police Department or others, they are untrue, harmful and defamatory.
To be clear, the officer has never refused to work either traffic or patrol for the Pride Days Celebration or any other event in his seven year career with the City and he is deeply hurt by any reference to the contrary. This officer has had a distinguished career with law enforcement without a hint of prejudice toward or against any group based on
their religion, race or sexual orientation.
Some days ago, our client was asked to perform maneuvers in the front of the Pride parade in connection with his duties as a "motor" officer. The officer simply felt that the level of participation required in the event could be perceived as endorsing or advocating in favor of the LGBTQ community, a position which made him uncomfortable given his personal and religious beliefs. He therefore asked to trade with a senior motor officer which would allow our client to function as a security, patrol or traffic officer for the event rather than an active participant in the parade. Instead of being given that
opportunity, he was ridiculed in the press by allegations of bigotry and more.
The Salt Lake City Police Department then sought to comment, publicly, concerning the officer and his actions, and misrepresented his position. Consequently the officer separated from the department effective today, and has taken the position that he has been constructively terminated from the Salt Lake City Police Department.