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Police Set Up Recruiting Booth at Gay Pride Event

Police Set Up Recruiting Booth at Gay Pride Event

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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting From baton-like performers to floats that encouraged tolerance, the Gay Pride parade this morning was a colorful affair.

"The parade is a chance for people to get up and express who they are in a very public way."

Law enforcement agencies were there not to keep the crowd under control, rather they used the festival as a recruiting tool.

Police Set Up Recruiting Booth at Gay Pride Event

For several years now, police officers and gay community members have joined together to work on a public safety committee that addresses issues of understanding between the two groups, but this is the first time police agencies have formally recruited at a Gay Pride event.

Police officers told us they've traditionally been weak in recruiting from the gay and lesbian community and they want this community to feel comfortable with law enforcement. To do that, they say gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people need to be represented.

The Gay Pride Festival at the City and County building boasted music, food and a lot of different vendors. This year, police officers wanted a booth.

Cpt. Kyle Jones, Salt Lake Police Department: "The first purpose is to let the gay and lesbian community know that police departments in this valley are gay-friendly. Our second purpose is to do some recruiting."

Seven different police departments and dispatch centers sent representatives to give out information and talk to people about jobs many in the gay and lesbian community have traditionally shied away from or felt locked out of.

Brian Reeder: "The police force, it's generally something you don't feel is friendly to the gay and lesbian population. But they seem to be. So that's a good thing."

Cpt. Kyle Jones: "I think there's an impression that police officers are homophobic. Years ago that may have been the case, but it's not the case now."

The booth drew a lot of people curious to see what police were doing there.

Todd Crane: "I think it's awesome. I think we need to have more community involvement with the police."

Others were truly interested in law enforcement jobs.

Terry Reid: "I'd apply. I'd apply for a dispatcher."

Brian Reeder: "Now that I know they're willing to openly accept gay and lesbian people, it's definitely a career option I wouldn't rule out."

Terry Reid: "I applaud them. That's great. That is great. I think we need to break down these walls and get diversity."

The police departments say the more gay and lesbian officers they have working for them, the more the gay community will feel its issues are represented. Police want to send a clear message.

Cpt. Kyle Jones: "We don't care about who you are or who your partner is. We care about, can you do good police work?"

The festival coordinator said that the Gay Pride movement began in New York in 1969 when gay people got fed up with police harassment in bars and started rioting and fighting back. So, he said to have officers here at the Festival this year shows how far the relationship has come.

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