The weather looks auspicious for Portland's Pride Parade, which is scheduled for 11 am on Sunday. But a letter from the parade's organizer, Pride Northwest, Inc., is casting a cloud over the event.
The letter, written by Pride Northwest Executive Director Debra Porta, is blunt: If you're a police officer, please don't march in uniform.
"We are asking LGBTQ and allied people in law enforcement, who plan to march in the Portland Pride Parade NOT to march in uniform," Porta writes. "Maybe wear department polos or other shirt-something besides the uniform. To be clear, we are NOT asking you not to march. We even recognize that you are likely authorized for conceal/carry-we would expect you to follow whatever protocols you typically have there. We are simply hoping to bring down some of those barriers in our community."
In her letter, Porta alludes to historic tensions between members of the LGBTQ community and police—tensions that she says continue.
KOIN-TV first reported on the letter this afternoon.
"Those of us over the age of thirty recognize the courage and perseverance that it has taken, to reach a point where you are able to be out and serving in the capacities that you do," Porta wrote. "We absolutely honor that. At the same time, we are also very aware of the history between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community. And that is a history that remains unresolved, particularly for our LGBTQ people of color and Trans-identified."
Sgt. Brad Yakots, a 10-year PPB veteran, is organizing a police contingent for the parade. He expects between 20 and 40 officers to march on Sunday.
Yakots, who is gay, says he will march wearing his uniform. He says he found Porta's request puzzling.
"I didn't feel that was the right decision," Yakots says. "I think the best way that we as officers can show our support is to be there in our uniforms."
He says he thinks members of the public, who are used to seeing uniformed officers in the parade, would be confused by the changes Porta suggests. Yakots adds that he's unaware of any recent incidents or history that would have damaged members of the LGBTQ community's view of the police bureau.
PPB spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson says Chief Mike Marshman is aware of the Porta's letter and the concerns she expressed in it.
"The chief has authorized officers to wear the uniforms they choose," Simpson says. "He has left it up to their discretion." (Marshman will march in his uniform, Simpson says.)
Porta was not immediately available for comment but her letter makes it clear the Yakots, Marshman and others will be accepted even if they do wear their blues.
"Please NOTE," Porta's letter says, "NO member of law enforcement will be denied or turned away from the parade. Our only ask, based on all of the above, is to consider the potential of not doing so."