This may be the last year that San Diego Police Officers and Sheriff Deputies will be marching in their full uniforms at San Diego’s annual LGBTQ Pride parade. After almost two years of countless meetings, proposals, and discussions officers will be allowed to march this year in their uniforms but next year they might be wearing polo shirts and have their weapons concealed.
Since the start of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the nationwide focus on incidents concerning law enforcement brutality and discrimination, LGBTQ+ people of color and transgender activists in San Diego have become more vocal and spoken out. The recent studies and reports of racial profiling by the San Diego Police Department has made nationwide headlines as well as the number of fatalities of people of color while in San Diego County Jails. These matters have also received countywide attention from leaders and activists throughout San Diego. San Diego Pride Executive Director, Fernando Lopez has been on the forefront of the LGBTQ+ activism calling for major change in local law enforcement agencies and has become the major voice for LGBTQ+ communities of color and trans activists.
Two years ago, San Diego Pride decided not to allow “uniformed” law enforcement to march in the annual pride parade but would welcome them “out of uniform”. This year’s parade will be back in-person since the 2020 and 2021 Pride events were held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Word soon got out that Mayor Todd Gloria and other LGBTQ+ elected officials, along with highly respected businessman Chris Shaw and other bar and business owners would not participate in this year‘s parade if the police and sheriff we’re not allowed back in the parade in full uniform.
As the founder of both the Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs LGBTQ Advisory Boards, I came forward with a proposal that would allow both departments to march in their uniforms if they carried pro-LGBTQ+ civil rights signs. Both Mayor Gloria and Police Chief David Nisleit supported my proposal.
Further meetings with San Diego Pride, LGBTQ+ law enforcement, people of color and trans activists continue to be held with Fernando Lopez and San Diego Pride getting more commitments of change and future dialogue with law enforcement agencies countywide. Police Chief Nisleit will be retiring next year and LGBTQ+ citizens are expected to be appointed to the official search committee to nominate Nisleit’s replacement. Many San Diego community leaders are hoping that the next police chief will be a well-qualified person of color. San Diego has had only one police chief “of color” and one female in its long history.
This week the new acting Sheriff Anthony Ray met with the newly re-organized LGBTQ+ Advisory Council to the Sheriff. Max Disposti, Executive Director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and City Commissioner Susan Jester were elected the new cochairs of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board. Sheriff Deputy Kelly Martinez, who is the leading candidate to be elected sheriff, was also in attendance.