Last year Capitol Hill Pride filed a complaint with the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) after five uniformed Seattle Police Department officers showed up to their festival to shop for gay dog clothes even though organizers told them to stay away. 

Months later, the OPA found that those officers had done nothing wrong. Police can stroll through Cal Anderson Park no matter what anyone says, including the Seattle Pride and Capitol Hill Pride organizers who issued bans on uniformed police. The finding raises questions about how far Pride police bans can really go and about the degree to which SPD is willing to read a room. 

After the Pride orgs issued the bans, on June 22 of last year then-interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz published an open letter on the Seattle police blotter saying the department would “respectfully decline” to march in the parade as they had for nearly 30 years. Officers still watched the parade route for threats. 

Charlette LeFevre, director of Capitol Hill Pride, which kicks off this year on June 24, said officers responded flippantly to the ban, and one debated her on its merits. Then they left the park. Shortly after that, she filed the complaint. 

Her complaint alleged that the officers disobeyed the chief’s direct order by showing up, but that’s not quite right. His letter said nothing about parks or festivals. The fest’s permit specified “no exclusive use” of the park, and all parks are open to the public. 

A second complaint alleged three uniformed officers showed up to the Seattle Pride Parade downtown. OPA determined that complaint was also unfounded. Seattle Pride said it was too busy to comment. Diaz told OPA that officers in both incidents did not violate the language or spirit of the letter.

Despite the “unfounded” resolution to both cases, the City’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found flaws in OPA’s investigation of the first case. 

OPA didn’t interview the officers, tell the officers about the complaint, or classify any allegations against them. Seattle’s OIG didn’t certify the 180-day investigation as “thorough” or “timely,” according to OPA’s closed case summary from December. OPA, of course, disagreed with that assessment.

OPA Director Gino Betts was not available for comment.

Capitol Hill Pride plans to ban uniformed police officers again this year, but LeFevre hopes to improve its relationship with the department. In a press release, she invited former, current, and new recruit officers to attend if they leave the badge at home.

Back in June of 2022, before the five-officer shopping spree, SPD removed a homophobe for tearing down pride flags. That worked for LeFevre. But five officers shopping on the clock did not. 

“How can you not look at that as misconduct when you're knowingly admitting that you know of the ban, you're being defiant, and on top of that you're shopping on the taxpayer’s dime?” she said over the phone.

Two weeks prior, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 white nationalists in Patriot Front who’d traveled from 10 states to riot at a Pride event. Also that June, Oak Harbor Police arrested a 27-year-old in Anacortes for threatening the local Pride parade with violence.

Caution right now is not paranoia. A single can of Bud Light featuring trans-influencer Dylan Mulvaney ended with bomb threats for Anheuser-Busch breweries. A far-right campaign against Target’s Pride merchandise also ended with bomb threats. A record 500+ hateful and unscientific anti-LGBTQ bills popped up like noxious weeds this legislative session, emboldening violence like this. 

That said, cops showing up to a community event when people asked them not to is like waving your hands around someone and taunting, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” You’re not going to win friends like that.