Cops are Welcome to Walk in OC’s LGBT Pride Parade

As in Long Beach in 2018, law enforcement officers will participate in the OC Pride parade Saturday. (Photo by John Gilhooley)

There will be a police presence at Saturday’s Orange County LGBT Pride parade, which is not a reference to the cops keeping the peace in downtown Santa Ana, but the cops who will be joining revelers in the procession.

It’s a far cry from the first Pride when transgender black women rioted in response to the police brutalizing them, which explains why LGBT activist groups across the country still grapple with the visuals of cops in their parades. For instance, the Prides of Sacramento and Minneapolis initially banned uniformed officers from marching in their parades but later retracted those decisions.

In Orange County, the attitude toward police officers in the Pride parade is more positive,  so cops will walk alongside staff of the nonprofit LGBT Center OC in Santa Ana.

“As a gay female police officer, I treat everybody with respect … but I can understand where they’re coming from; there’s a fear there,” says Laguna Beach Officer Joy Butterfield. “Hopefully we can reach that gap until there’s trust.”

According to OC Pride Grand Marshal Brit Cervantes, the way to mend the relationship between disenfranchised LGBT communities and the police is by having discussions and open dialogue.

“Anybody should be welcome to come to the parade while being mindful of the history and recognizing it and acknowledging that there is a history between the LGBT community and the police,” Cervantes says. “We need to remember that these things happen and they are still happening.”

Cervantes, a transgender man, added that it can be particularly difficult for members of his community to reach out for emergency services such as the police because of fear that their orientation will impact how they are treated.

Various police departments across Orange County take part in a program called the OC LGBTQ+ Policing Partnership, in which officers and members of the LGBT Center OC meet to discuss issues relevant to the LGBT community. The center also leads cultural sensitivity training with local law enforcement, according to LGBT Center Director Peg Corley. The training involves instructing officers on proper use of pronouns when interacting with members of the transgender community and ensuring that they respect the gender identity of LGBT people with whom they come in contact.

Orange County Pride, which began in 1989 and originally met resistance from anti-LGBT protestors, changed over the years as Pride became more mainstream, according to Hara Alarcon, a longtime Orange County LGBT community member who won Ms. OC Pride in 2007.

Alarcon said it’s a good thing that the police march in the parade because it displays camaraderie with the forces. By marching in the parade, the police are making a step to bridge the divide with the LGBT community, she adds.

“Our law enforcement are our example setters,” Alarcon said. “The more people stand together for this cause I think the better.”

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