Who is Brian Downey? Gay NYPD officer says banning cops from city's pride events is 'poorly made decision'
A gay NYPD police officer has responded to the organizers of New York City Pride events after they banned law enforcement officers from participating in order to “create safer spaces” for “marginalized groups.”
NYC Pride announced a new policy on Saturday, saying it will not be allowing corrections and law enforcement exhibitors to march in the parade or partake in related events for at least the next five years, the New York Post reported.
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Organizers of the world's largest gay pride celebration also declared that they would hire private security and first responders as part of their efforts to reduce NYPD presence at the events.
“The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason,” organizers said in a news release. “NYC Pride is unwilling to contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community.”
It's worth noting that the millions of members of the LGBT community across the country make their way to the city in June every year for the world's landmark gay rights celebration. The tradition began in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Uprising which saw patrons of a Greenwich Village gay bar riot against law enforcement who were conducting a raid of the then-illicit establishment.
Who is Detective Brian Downey?
Detective Brian Downey, 41, the president of NYPD’s Gay Officers Action League, told the New York Post how hundreds of members of the police department had been marching in solidarity with the marginalized community for nearly four decades.
“GOAL was embraced by the community because it was viewed as agents of change. This was progress, it wasn’t contention,” Downey said on Saturday night on May 15. He acknowledged that some distrust of law enforcement was "justified," but noted that his organization was about "building bridges."
“Having the courage to go into the institution as a gay or queer person… you’re going in there with that struggle that is your own identity and you’re bringing it inside that system,” Downey said. “I have used a position of considerable power... to open the door for other people that don’t share my same experience and give them a voice at the table.”
But despite the move to ban them from Pride events, GOAL has vowed to continue its advocacy on behalf of the community. According to The Daily Hive, Pride Toronto also banned cops from marching in its 2017 parade after lobbying by Black Lives Matter protesters. At the time, NYPD's GOAL organization reportedly invited Toronto law enforcement to march side by side with them in the Manhattan parade.
Heightened security risk
Meanwhile, the decision to hire private security raises a "host of high-stakes liability and insurance issues," according to the Post. Police officers are concerned that parade organizers are not equipped to protect millions of revelers in the Village during the celebrations.
“I don’t know what the end game is here,” Downey said. “When you create an echo chamber and you take a dissenting voice other than the voice of these activists, who don’t want reform they just want abolition.” He continued with another question. “How does this work? I think this was a poorly made decision and the execution was even poorer,” he said.