Aurora police say not enough officers have been secured for Aurora Pride Parade and it might not go ahead
AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- Aurora police said Tuesday that not enough officers have been brought on board to maintain safety during the Aurora Pride Parade, and unless more officers are secured soon, the parade could be canceled.
The parade is set for June 12.
In a statement, Aurora police Public Information Officer Paris Lewbel said the Aurora Police Department has been working with the Aurora Pride organization and the city's Community Events Division since late January on planning the parade.
The Aurora Pride Parade applied for a special event permit – which requires Aurora police to work with organizers to develop a public safety plan, Lewbel wrote. This involves the police department determining how many officers are needed.
Aurora police decided the Aurora Pride organization would be responsible for retaining officers based on the parade route, the number of street closures, the size of the parade, the anticipated number of spectators, and the number of officers needed to ensure public safety for the event, Lewbel wrote. Police decided number of officers needed for this year's parade would be similar to the number that was needed the last time a Pride Parade was held in 2019.
Lewbel wrote that when police officers are needed privately-run special event, the officers are assigned as an extra job outside their regular duties, Lewbel wrote. Extra jobs and overtime are voluntary, and city cannot force any officers to work for the parade, Lewbel wrote.
As it is, the Aurora Police Department has already been struggling to get officers to work overtime to fill staff shortages, sick calls, and vacation time with overtime – while also ensuring there are enough officers on patrol to ensure public safety in the city, Lewbel wrote – adding that fewer officers want to work extra shifts than in the past.
"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," Lewbel wrote. "As a result, we often have trouble hiring overtime shifts to cover our patrol division or for officers to work special events."
Aurora Pride organizers responded with the following statement:
"We are concerned and disappointed, and we are investigating all options available to us."
The Aurora Police Department has tried to get enough officers to work the parade since the permit was approved on May 3, but has not been able to do so, Lewbel wrote. Aurora police introduced Aurora Pride to other police departments and officers that could step in – but even after this effort, there still were not enough officers on board, Lewbel wrote.
Aurora police told the city's Community Events Division that about 20 more officers were still needed to ensure safety at the parade. If those officers are not secured, Aurora police cannot recommend that the parade be held, Lewbel wrote.
The Aurora Pride Parade has already been mired in controversy involving the police department for a separate reason. Organizers for the parade made the decision last month that law enforcement officers may participate – but without weapons, uniforms, or individual vehicles.
Parade organizers in late May issued a news release reading in part, "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."
The organizers did allow uniformed police officers during the 2018 and 2019 pride parades in Aurora. But they said in 2022, the climate has shifted – and community members are more strained than they were three years ago.
As a result of that decision, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said last week that he would not be participating in the parade, and also announced the City of Aurora would no longer have a float in the parade.
"The impacted officers and the command staff of the Aurora Police Department are not in agreement with this, and I stand with our officers. As a result, I will not participate in this year's Aurora Pride Parade, as I did in previous years," Irvin wrote. "Furthermore, I am withdrawing the City of Aurora's float from the parade, and the Pride Flag Raising Ceremony - initially planned to be held in collaboration with Aurora Pride - will now be presented solely by the City."
Irvin wrote that the City of Aurora has "worked diligently for years" to strengthen trust between police and the community "without painting Aurora with the broad brush of a national narrative."
Speaking to CBS 2's Meredith Barack last month, Aurora police Sgt. Lee Catavu likewise expressed disappointment. Catavu spearheaded the Aurora Police Department's LGBTQ+ liaison program and is a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself.
"I think it's another opportunity lost, where we can highlight all the positive inroads that the police department have made with all different communities," he said.
Catavu says the irony is not lost on him that officers are being told they can participate – but only if they conceal who they are.
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