Can Police Officers Refuse Duty Assignments They Disagree With?

Posted: June 20, 2014 in homosexuality, legal / law
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I decided not to brand this one under the “rules don’t apply to Christians” meme because that wasn’t the stated (though surely implied) idea behind this story. So … let’s say you’re a police officer. I have never been in the force, but from my understanding, it has a chain of command — kinda like any job. And, you do what higher-ups tell you to do. That’s kinda the way things work.

So, what happens when you refuse? Just ’cause you disagree with the assignment? Well … “Utah Cop Refuses to Work at Gay Pride Parade.” (This is one of those very rare instances where WND didn’t put “gay” in “quotes.”) The story can pretty much be begatten from the headline, but here’re the middle two paragraphs of the four that WND copied from the AP:

The officer was among about 30 officers assigned to provide traffic control and security for the annual Utah Pride Parade on Sunday in Salt Lake City, said department spokeswoman Lara Jones.

“We don’t tolerate bias and bigotry in the department, and assignments are assignments … To allow personal opinion to enter into whether an officer will take a post is not something that can be tolerated in a police department,” Jones told KSL.

Pretty straight-forward. You’re a cop, your personal views don’t matter, you do the assignment. It’s not like they were telling the officer to march in the parade, or wear chaps and a leather harness with a rainbow bandanna. It’s provide traffic control and security for a legally permitted function.

Predictably, several WND commenters are idiots. Like “tlk244182” who has the highest-rated comment which reads, in part: “I salute him for doing the right thing. We all must begin to resist further moral deterioration at the level of public policy (and every other level.)”

Or “Pi10107” who wrote, “I be a Muslim would get excused.” He has 26 up-votes and is third-rated.

The reason I mention up-votes and relative ranking is that Disqus changed their comment policy several months ago (as I mentioned on this blog) and no longer shows the number of down-votes, and so we don’t know the relative balance. But, the second-highest ranked comment is by “paininthebuttocks” with 16 up-votes (yeah, apparently 23 > 16 > 26): “Ok lets put this in prospective. I can understand the officer’s point of view but he is wrong. It is a parade not a sexual event. It is a lawful activity and he is assigned to provide security. Lets assume the officer is a Republican. Can he refuse to work a Democratic Convention on the same grounds? I do not think anyone would say yes to that one.”

Wow. An actually reasonable comment, that understands the way things work, and is highly rated. On WND. I’m impressed.

While the WND particle was posted on June 7, the Advocate posted about it on June 8: “Utah: Cop Refuses To Work At Pride Parade.” It has a few more details.

Meanwhile, Joe.My.God has even more follow-up, such as on June 10, “Utah: Cop Who Refused To Work Pride Parade Threatens To Sue For Defamation.” The justification:

A Salt Lake City police officer says the department defamed him and violated his rights when he was put on leave after a conflict over his assignment at Sunday’s Utah Pride Parade. “He feels that the same protections that afford individuals to participate in a parade like we had yesterday, are the very constitutional protections that were not afforded to him,” Bret Rawson, the officer’s attorney, said Monday. Rawson said the officer did not refuse his assignment — to join other motorcycle officers in choreographed maneuvers at the beginning of the parade — but instead asked his commanders for a “less conspicuous” role at the parade, such as traffic enforcement or security. “The officer simply felt that the level of participation required in the event could be perceived as endorsing or advocating in favor of the LGBTQ community, a position which made him uncomfortable, given his personal and religious beliefs,” Rawson wrote.

So, apparently he actually was told to participate in the parade in some form, which I find interesting and wonder, actually, how that could be justified if it’s accurate.

Meanwhile, a day later, the police officer resigned: “Utah: Cop Who Refused To Ride In Salt Lake City Pride Parade Has Resigned.” Or, if you don’t like JMG, here’s the story from the Advocate: “Cop Who Objected to Utah Pride Gig Leaves Job.”

I’m guessing this is not the end of this story, and I may be writing about Christian Persecution in a few months, courtesy of WND via FOX “news.” We’ll see.

  1. eyeontheuniverse says:

    I’m waiting for vegans to realize the cool gig they get going into pharmacy. Just work in one of these silly states that says you don’t have to give out drugs you oppose, and the devoted vegan pharmacist can get paid to do nothing all day.

  2. Flip says:

    That is an interesting turn of events. I actually agree with the cop if he really was asked to be in the parade instead of just doing security. Otherwise, yeah he should’t be able to refuse. I’m keen to do some follow-up on this to see what the legal ramifications would be.

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