SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Organizers of this year’s Sacramento Pride Festival have banned police in uniform, saying their presence may make others feel uncomfortable.
“I take a lot of pride in who I am and being on the police department and representing the Sacramento Police and representing our community,” said Sacramento Police Officer Jeff Kuhlmann.
Kuhlmann recently learned officers in uniforms will not be welcome at this year’s Pride parade and festival.
In a statement, festival organizers said officers in uniform make some people feel uncomfortable.
“To honor the pain and marginalization of community members who have been harmed by police violence, we have asked Sacramento Police not to participate in uniform for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” the partial statement said.
Openly gay, Kuhlmann has worked hard to dispel rumors and myths he remembers his first interview when he was hired in 2005.
“Thirty minutes of that was allowing me to be myself in the department and I thought that was great,” said Kuhlmann. “I didn’t know I would actually have the opportunity to be like that.”
It was a proud moment for the man who wanted to be a police officer since he was a child.
Kuhlmann finds it odd he can’t take part in a celebration which speaks to the core of his being in part because of events that took place 50 years ago.
In June of 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn – a gay club in New York’s Greenwich Village. The club at the time was owned by the mafia. During the mass arrest, confused patrons were rounded up. Many complained their rights were violated and the widespread outrage lead to two days of rioting.
Sacramento Pride Festival organizers say many in the LGBT community distrust the police to this day and to see police in uniform celebrating Pride would open old wounds.
Kuhlman sees it on both sides.
“It’s an absolutely tragic event that happened 50 years ago, but one of the things we have to take is how 50 years later we’ve moved on from that and how our officers and our LGBT community has come to work together,” he said.
Festival organizers have been looking for a middle ground and agreed police officers are invited to celebrate in Pride – but only if they wear casual clothes or polo shirts.
This isn’t good enough for officer Kuhlmann, who says Pride Festival organizers are falling short of what inclusion at the festival is all about.
“By having us in uniform it can show, that this is who we are, people can come up to us and talk to us,” said Kuhlmann. “But if we’re in civilian clothes or polo shirts that’s not who we are”.
Erin Lawrence was out for a walk in Sacramento’s Lavender district with her wife Tammy and said the gay community is divided on the issue of police celebrating in uniform at Pride.
“They’re just like everybody else. Just because they’re in uniform doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate pride just like everybody else,” Erin said.
Tammy Lawrence agreed that Stonewall is in the past and it’s time to move on.
“That was a different time “, she said. “I come from that generation that didn’t know what gay was. I didn’t come out until I was 40.”
Kuhlmann says he’s been to Pride events in the past and people have visited the booth shook hands and taken pictures with officers.
“I’ve never had a negative experience it’s always been welcoming,” said Kuhlmann.
David Heitstuman, the executive director for Sacramento LGBT Community Center, said police will be at the festival to provide security and manage traffic road closures. Sacramento Police didn’t attend last year’s event, which took place a few months after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.