San Francisco police will be fully deployed for Pride, chief says

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Thursday June 27, 2024
Share this Post:
San Francisco Police Officer Mike Petuya, with Chief William Scott to his left, spoke to reporters about Pride safety June 27 in Harvey Milk Plaza as Mayor London Breed, left, and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman listened. Photo: Cynthia Laird
San Francisco Police Officer Mike Petuya, with Chief William Scott to his left, spoke to reporters about Pride safety June 27 in Harvey Milk Plaza as Mayor London Breed, left, and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman listened. Photo: Cynthia Laird

As hundreds of thousands of people prepare to visit San Francisco for Pride festivities, the San Francisco Police Department will be fully staffed for the events, Chief Williams Scott said Thursday.

"We will be fully deployed," Scott said at a noontime news conference at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro LGBTQ neighborhood. He was joined by out officers, community leaders, gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and a surprise appearance by Mayor London Breed.

Last month, federal authorities issued advisories asking people to be vigilant as they attend Pride Month events nationwide. The State Department issued a similar warning to those traveling abroad. In recent years, anti-LGBTQ organizations have attempted to disrupt Pride-related events, including in 2022 at the San Lorenzo Library in the East Bay that was presenting a drag story hour for children.

As of Thursday, Scott said his department is not aware of anyone targeting the city's Pride celebrations this weekend. It kicks off with the annual Trans March Friday evening followed by a two-day celebration in the Civic Center in front of City Hall and the parade on Sunday.

"There are no known threats," the chief said. "But there's always a possibility, and our job is protecting the public."

People attending the various Pride events should remain cautious, he added.

"Keep an eye out for your friends and loved ones," said Scott. "Keep an eye on your purse, your cellphone."

He urged people to drink responsibly and not to drink and drive, encouraging Pridegoers to use public transportation. BART, the regional transit agency, announced this week it will be at "its most robust service ever" for those attending the parade, which kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

In a June 24 announcement, BART said it will open at 8 a.m. that day and run 5-line service with trains every five minutes through downtown San Francisco, with additional event trains dispatched as needed. In the morning, event trains will bolster BART service between its Millbrae and Downtown San Francisco stations, as well as between Pleasant Hill and downtown San Francisco from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Later in the day, BART will run event trains starting at 2 p.m. and continue into the evening, supplementing its scheduled service. After 9 p.m., BART will run 3-line service.

Other law enforcement and safety personnel offered similar tips for Pride attendees to remain safe. Sergeant Kathryn Winters, a transgender woman who's president of the SFPO Pride Alliance, told the Bay Area Reporter that those going to bars should remain watchful.

"Basic bar safety," she said in a brief interview just prior to the news conference. "Don't leave a drink unattended and don't accept an open drink from someone you don't know."

She also said that if people encounter an unsafe situation, they should leave. If they need help, they can go into a local business and explain the situation so that police can be called.

Greg Carey, a gay man who is chair of Castro Community on Patrol, a volunteer safety group, told the B.A.R. people "should mostly keep their eyes and ears open."

"People tend to become enamored" of all the Pride-related excitement, he noted. "People should stick with people they know."

Terry Asten Bennett, a straight ally who's president of the Castro Merchants Association, attended the news conference. She told the B.A.R. after the speakers concluded that the LGBTQ neighborhood is ready to welcome everyone as it recovers from COVID-era shutdowns that have seen the area struggle in recent years.

"We are very excited to have people eat, shop, and celebrate in the Castro," she said. "Any support means a lot to all of us — and please take care of yourself and each other."

SFPD Officer Mike Petuya, who said he is a "member of the LGBTQ community," spoke to reporters, saying the department believes officers should reflect the community it serves. LGBTQ officers often serve as a liaison to the community, he added.

And he pointed to his Pride patch that the department started allowing officers to wear over five years ago — the first in the nation to do so.

He also had a warning for those who might be tempted to cause problems during Pride weekend.

"In the past, we've seen the LGBTQ community fall victim simply because of who they are. We will not tolerate that. If you see something, call 911," he said, referring to any anti-LGBTQ hate incident.

Mandelman said that "it's an amazing time to celebrate the progress made in our SFPD," and credited the mayor for making additional investments. The department is understaffed by about 500 officers.

He then introduced Breed, whom he said, "was just strolling along in the Castro." The appearance was not on her daily schedule shared with the media, which indicated she was conducting meetings in City Hall. (The mayor, who's facing a tough reelection fight, opened her campaign office in the Castro earlier this month.)

"It's always great to be in the Castro," Breed said, adding she's glad to see the new Castro Theatre sign that was recently refurbished.

"San Francisco always stands up to hatred," the mayor said. She noted that people traveling to the city for Pride may come from countries that have anti-LGBTQ laws. "In some parts of the world, laws target people. San Francisco is really about bringing people together," she added.

The mayor noted that about 100 license plate readers have been recently installed throughout the city — hundreds more are planned — and said they have already led to arrests for retail theft, car theft, and a robbery. These arrests occurred "within hours," Breed said, adding it's part of a year-round effort to keep people safe.

In response to a question, Scott said that everyone in the department working over Pride weekend, despite the staffing shortage, "is not new to us." Other activities going on in San Francisco this weekend include Giants baseball games and a Fourth of July parade June 29 in the Sunset district.

"We have a phenomenal workforce," the chief said.

Winters, of the Pride Alliance, did not speak during the formal news conference. She told the B.A.R. that the alliance was "frozen out" by Scott's director of strategic communications, whom she did not name. It had previously participated in the pre-Pride press event, she said.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, we have to be strong with all agencies," she said. "We're trying to build that trust and, as president of the Pride Alliance, we have to do the work to create the partnerships."

Evan Sernoffsky, who is Scott's director of strategic communications, denied the alliance was left out of the news conference.

"They were not frozen out," he told the B.A.R. after the formal remarks wrapped up. "We work closely with the Pride Alliance and value everything they bring to the department."

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife.

Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!