Salt Lake City police officer says he didn’t refuse to work pride parade

Plaintiffs in the federal challenge to Utah's same-sex marriage ban served as Grand Marshals of Utah Pride on Sunday, June 8, 2014.
Plaintiffs in the federal challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban served as Grand Marshals of the Utah Pride parade in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 8, 2014. Utah Pride Festival

SALT LAKE CITY — The attorney for a Salt Lake City police officer who was placed on leave for refusing an assignment to work a gay pride parade last weekend said Monday that his client has been defamed by inaccurate comments made by the police department.

Attorney Bret Rawson said the officer didn’t refuse to work the parade, but asked to be taken off the motor team that leads the parade and reassigned to behind-the-scenes duty. Rawson declined to divulge the officer’s name. Salt Lake City police have not named him either.

The officer felt being on the motorcycle would make it appear he was advocating for gay pride, something that made him uncomfortable because of his personal and religious beliefs, he said. He never flatly said he wouldn’t work the parade, merely asking for a different duty, Rawson said.

“You are essentially participating in the actual parade,” Rawson said. “It’s more than doing traffic, or patrol or regular police dut ies.”

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Salt Lake City police said last week that the officer was placed on leave for refusing to provide traffic control and security for the annual Utah Pride Parade.

“We don’t tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments … To allow personal opinion to enter into whether an officer will take a post is not something that can be tolerated in a police department,” department spokeswoman Lara Jones told KSL-TV.

Jones said Monday she can’t comment because the officer has hired an attorney, a sign of pending litigation.

The officer remains on administrative leave, Jones said.

Rawson, however, said his client has stepped down because of untenable work conditions. The officer, who has worked seven years in the department, is upset about the way what happened was conveyed to the media, Rawson said.

“He really did nothing improper,” Rawson said. “He has never shown any prejudice or bigotry to any person in his role as a SLC police officer.”

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