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Officer refuses Utah Pride Parade assignment, placed on leave

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake police officer has been placed on leave for refusing an assignment at this weekend's gay pride parade.

"We don't tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments," said department spokeswoman Lara Jones.

The officer is on paid administrative leave as the internal affairs unit reviews the situation, Jones said. He had been given a traffic control and public safety assignment, and he's the subject of an internal investigation.

"Clearly the officer chose to act in a very bigoted way, and that does put his duties question," said Steven Ha, executive director of the Utah Pride Center. "

Ha said he would like to see review into whether officers are properly trained to serve and protect everyone equally.

"We must ask the review these police policies and standard practices," Ha said. "I think it's on the minds of any reasonable individual in all communities to question that."

The department has provided services at the Utah Pride Festival since its inception, as well as a host of other community events.

"We serve a variety of community events with similar functions, and 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," Jones said.

Additionally, members of the Salt Lake City Police Department have marched in past Utah Pride parades, including Chief Chris Burbank who marched last year.

Burbank will be out of town this weekend, but three deputies will march in the parade Sunday, and the department's outreach and recruitment booth will be set up at the Utah Pride Festival on Saturday, Jones said.

"We have gay men and women who serve in the police department, and we are fully supportive and committed to, as Chief Burbank has made quite clear and his record speaks to, the city's nondiscrimination policy," Jones said. "The vast majority of officers understand when they put on the badge and come to work, they leave their personal opinions at home and come to serve the community."

Utah Pride Center spokeswoman Deann Armes issued a statement Friday thanking the department for its stance.

"Our goal is to make sure that police training and certification includes policies and oaths to ensure that all officers are committed to providing equal service and treatment of all citizens. Clearly, bigotry is alive and well, and our attorney general upholding discrimination by fighting marriage equality is not helping to reduce discrimination by our police officers," the statement said.

A 10th Circuit judge ruled last month against a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police captain who filed a civil rights complaint when his department required some officers to attend a law enforcement appreciation event at a local mosque if there wasn't a sufficient number of volunteers. The officers were not required to attend the mosque's prayer service.

The police captain was transferred to another division and an internal affairs investigation was launched, according to court documents.

Members of the Islamic society put on the event to thank the department for protecting them after them after threats were made against them. An estimated 150 officers volunteered to attend the event after the captain launched his complaint.

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McKenzie Romero

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