Aurora's third annual Pride Parade on Sunday may be in jeopardy.
According to a statement released Tuesday, the Aurora Police Department said it is unable to meet the June 12 event's staffing needs, and that as of Monday, "approximately 20 officers were still required to fully staff the event to ensure the safety for all."
"Unless the additional officers are secured shortly," the statement continued, "APD cannot recommend to the City that the event can proceed as planned."
According to officials, the privately run event applied for a special event permit in January through the city of Aurora. As part of the permitting process, event organizers must work with the Aurora Police Department to determine a public safety plan based on the size and scope of the event. After that, the department determines the number of officers needed to ensure public safety.
According to the statement, "During the initial review process for the Pride Parade, the Aurora Police Department determined that the Aurora Pride Organization was responsible for retaining law enforcement officers based on the requested parade route, the number of street closures, the size of the parade, anticipated number of spectators, the number of officers needed to ensure the overall public safety of the event, and any other safety concerns."
The statement goes on to say that staffing for privately run special events requires law enforcement to work outside of their regularly assigned duties, and that extra jobs and overtime shifts are voluntary.
The department says due to a number of reasons, these special events are difficult to hire for.
"The Aurora Police Department has seen a significant increase in the need to hire overtime shifts to cover staff shortages, sick calls, and vacation time to ensure that the department has enough officers on patrol to respond to emergency calls and incidents throughout our city," the statement says.
"Over the past few years, we have seen substantial changes with many officers wishing to spend more time with their family and friends and less time volunteering to work beyond their regularly scheduled shifts. As a result, we often have trouble hiring overtime shifts to cover our patrol division or for officers to work special events."
The statement goes on to say that as of May 3, the department has "attempted to hire as many officers as possible to work with the Pride Parade," but they are still short of the minimum number of officers needed to ensure the overall safety of the parade.
Officials say the APD and the city then met with event organizers to try and secure other police departments and organizations in hopes that they might provide the 20 additional sworn law enforcement personnel the department says is needed for the event to proceed safely.
However, the department says organizers were unable to secure officers from neighboring jurisdictions.
"With an update from the organizers this morning, no additional officers had been secured," the department's statement says.
"Unless the additional officers are secured shortly, APD cannot recommend to the City that the event can proceed as planned."
Aurora Pride organizers released the following statement Tuesday in response:
We are concerned and disappointed, and we are investigating all options available to us.
Disagreement Between Aurora Pride Organizers and the Aurora Police Department Began Last Month
The event started to draw controversy last month, when Aurora Pride Parade organizers asked that law enforcement officers "participate without service weapons (our rules forbid all weapons), out of uniform, and without the presence of any official vehicles."
As a result, Aurora mayor and Illinois gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin said he would not participate in the city’s Pride Parade, and that the city will withdraw its float.
Organizers of the parade said they had made the uniform and weapon requests because they wanted to make the parade "the most welcoming environment possible," and said that “trust between police and LGBTQ people and people of color” is extremely low.
"Many members of the community feel uneasy in the presence of official law enforcement vehicles, as well as uniformed officers, due to negative experiences they themselves or someone they know have had," organizers said in a letter to police.
Aurora Pride organizers had offered a compromise to police after announcing the decision to not allow officers to march while carrying weapons or wearing their uniforms, suggesting a “soft uniform” approach instead.
"We would like to offer, additionally, that if officers have a “soft uniform”, something like a polo shirt with patch or logo, we would absolutely accept that," the letter said.
Irvin says that police in the city rejected the proposal and that he agreed with their stance.
“One of the basic principles of community policing is to have the police who serve in uniform represent the communities they serve,” he said. “Our LGBTQ officers, like most officers, do just that while regularly interacting with residents in their identifiable standard uniforms, not someone else’s narrowed view and censored definition of a ‘soft uniform.’”
Irvin said that police still intend to participate in other events and parades in the city, and said that none expressed any concern about the participation of uniformed officers.
In a Chicago Tribune article from May 29, Irvin is quoted as saying that he is “still disheartened and deeply disappointed," and that he would wait until after the Memorial Day weekend to comment further, saying, “I will share the city’s plan of action next week.”
In response, a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois sent to Irvin stated that "individuals—including City officials—have a First Amendment right to criticize Aurora Pride’s decision. Given the language of your May 25 letter and your public reference to an 'action plan,' however, it bears repeating that such speech may not cross over into coercion or retaliation."