San Francisco police officers have become the first in the nation to wear special rainbow patches in celebration of Pride Month.
For the entire month of June, officers who purchased the patches from a police group for LGBTQ cops have traded in their standard blue-and-gold patches for ones with a rainbow-patterned border.
Fifty years after the gay community rioted against police abuse in New York City during the historic Stonewall uprising, the patches are intended to signal that the San Francisco Police Department, one of the largest departments in the nation, is not just supportive but inclusive of the LGBTQ community.
Officer Michael Petuya, who spearheaded the Pride patch project for the San Francisco Police Officers’ Pride Alliance, told the Police Commission at a recent meeting that the patches are being sold for $20 a pair and that all proceeds would be donated to Larkin Street Youth Services.
“This will by no means be a requirement for our members, however we hope that by wearing these patches we can start positive conversations about providing important services to the homeless youth in the city of San Francisco, many of whom identify as LGBTQ,” Petuya said.
While the patches are being hailed as a positive step forward, the SFPD has not been without controversy over its relationship with the LGBTQ community. Notably, federal prosecutors revealed in 2015 that a group of officers had sent homophobic text messages.
“There was a time when the SFPD was actively engaged in homophobia and targeting gay men and going after the LGBT community,” David Campos, chair of the local Democratic Party and a former police commissioner said in a recent interview. “We have come so far.”
Campos said the patches show how San Francisco is “so good on LGBTQ issues.”
“There are so many questions about SFPD, but I guess this is one thing that they are actually getting right,” he said.
The Police Commission unanimously approved the Pride patch project in April.
“Actions like this are not just symbolic but they can help change how people feel about the department,” Police Commissioner John Hamasaki said at the meeting, noting that young people may have “negative impressions of law enforcement based on things they’ve seen in the media.”
Police Commissioner Dion-Jay Brookter said the decision to donate all the proceeds to Larkin Street Youth shows that the department understands The City is undergoing a homelessness and housing crisis.
“We’re also saying we’re going to focus on these young people to make sure that they do have housing and that they are off the streets so as they continue to grow up they have… that relationship with our department,” Brookter said.
Paul Henderson, director of the Department of Police Accountability, said it was “about time” the department had rainbow-colored patches.
“I was surprised that we haven’t seen this already,” Henderson said at the meeting.
Alongside the patches, the SFPD has rolled out a special rainbow SUV for Pride Month. The Police Officers’ Pride Alliance paid for the decals, according to the department.