EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay was sent to the executive staff of The Center in Denver, regarding the decision by Denver Pride Fest officials to preclude police, gay or straight, from participating in this year’s Pride Fest events. Officials there said the decision was made to support the Black Lives Matter movement in pushing against police officer inclusion in events and activities.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bill Hummel. I currently supervise a team of detectives who investigate child deaths, child sexual assaults and serious child abuses in the Crimes Against Children Unit with the Aurora Police Department. I have proudly served my community as a gay police officer since 2011.
I am writing to you because I am quite disheartened to learn that police officers would not be welcomed at Denver’s PrideFest. I vividly remember beginning my career in law enforcement and being absolutely mortified of how I would ever progress in such a career as a gay man. After my initial training and more exposure to the organization, I would come to find that dozens of openly gay men and women work for the Aurora Police Department. I heard stories from them about how they paved the way for young officers like me to be able to work in the field as an openly gay cop. Decades ago, I would have been hazed and fired for being gay.
In 2015, I finally got up the personal courage to march with APD in the PrideFest parade. I had tears rolling down my face as I walked westbound on that mile stretch of Colfax. Not only did I come out of the closet, but I was marching in my police uniform in front of the whole world. I will never forget when we neared Clarkson Street and my Mom ran out in the middle of Colfax Avenue to hug her gay police officer son. I had come so far and I finally understood why the festivities were referred to as “Pride.” I spent the next several years much more involved in the events. I organized more officers, I worked to recruit more LGBTQ applicants, I helped build floats, I worked with local businesses to have patrol cars wrapped in rainbow logos and I saw the birth of an Aurora Pride. A now-retired colleague called us “faggots” behind our backs while we organized. He went on to file complaints to city leadership that APD was marching for a “special interest group,” that being the LGBTQ community. Some members of the community spewed anti-gay hate while APD ramped-up efforts to be more outwardly involved in pride and fostered the concept of inclusivity.
In the last several decades, society has progressed in remarkable ways. In the 1960s police were beating gay people and now I am serving as a gay police officer. The Aurora Police Department has worked so hard to bridge the gap between police and our incredibly diverse community- I know this because I have personally been a part of that effort on many levels. Your decision to exclude the APD from marching in the Pride Fest undermines so much work that my colleagues and I have done. Rather than fighting for inclusivity, you are excluding a group of gay, lesbian and transgendered people from participating. How are we to be a part of the change if you won’t have us at all? Your decision to exclude APD Officers from participating represents an unfair condemnation of our entire profession. Such a blanket condemnation of all LGBTQ people would be abhorrent.
I am acutely aware of perceptions and of a strained relationship between police and communities across the nation. I wholeheartedly agree in police reform and getting to a place where our community trusts their police. Legislation, transparent practices and a raw dialogue are some things that will help us accomplish this. But, Executive Staff Members, exclusion is not the answer. Excluding the police and further fracturing the relationship that we are working to repair is not how we accomplish change.
There may be a small faction that does not want police present, but I do not believe for a second that the majority of the LGBTQ community wishes to exclude APD. The parade route resembles a standing ovation when my colleagues and I walk through – I have seen it year after year. We are an integral part of our community and should be treated with the same respect that is given to others. I am a police officer by profession, but I must remind you that behind my badge is a beating human heart full of love for my LGBTQ friends and family. I humbly request you to reconsider your decision to oust the APD from a celebration that is fundamentally built on inclusion.
Aurora Police Sgt, Bill Hummel leads the city’s Crimes Against Children Unit