'Giant backwards step': Auckland Pride Parade bans cops in uniform

New Zealand Police won't be marching in Auckland's Pride Parade in February after being asked not to wear their uniforms. 

The Board of Auckland Pride confirmed in a statement Friday afternoon their position that the New Zealand Police "will not be marching in uniform in the 2019 Auckland Pride Parade". 

"This decision has been made following a series of community feedback sessions, including the 2018 AGM and Community Hui series held in venues across Auckland," the statement says.

"These discussions indicated that whilst there is goodwill towards the NZ Police, as an institution they do not currently meet the degree of safety and awareness of intersectionality required by our rainbow communities."

Senior District Liaison Officer Tracy Phillips says police officers are extremely disappointed by the board's decision, telling Newshub if police are not welcome in uniform, then "we're not going to force ourselves on anybody". 

"The staff are very strong that if we can't march in uniform and be proud of our uniform, then we're not going to march," said Ms Phillips. "We will be there to make sure it's a safe event, we just won't be marching."

She said the decision from the event's board was confirmed to police on Thursday by chairwoman Cissy Rock. The Auckland Pride Board said it's is "keen to work with the New Zealand Police to establish a stronger relationship," but Ms Phillips says that's not good enough. 

Police officers are "really, really angry and disappointed," she told Newshub. "Police want to be visible to our rainbow community so that they can feel safe. I see marching in t-shirts as a giant backwards step."

The Pride Festival board told police officers they must wear T-shirts instead of their uniforms, which is when Ms Phillips says she made the call that the New Zealand Police will no longer attend the parade. 

"There's been a number of community huis over the last couple of months, and there's been a couple of people coming to those huis saying they think that the police marching in the Pride Parade is tantamount to Destiny Church marching - which was quite brutal," said Ms Phillips. 

"There are some people who've said they feel uncomfortable with police marching in uniform. We've done it for the last three years and we think it's a good thing. We've been well-received and we're proud of what we do for a job and of who we are."

Diversity was added as a police value back in 2015, she noted, adding that the police force is "trying to be as inclusive and as rainbow-friendly as we can be". 

Empathy and community were key themes of the police's recruitment video in 2017, which featured an even balance of male and female officers from a range of ethnic backgrounds. NZ Police also made waves this year after revealing a rainbow themed car to celebrate diversity.  

Ms Phillips says the rainbow car was planned to be used at the Auckland Pride Parade next year, among a number of "all sorts of fabulous stuff" such as the police band. Nevertheless, she said the police will be supporting other events such as Big Gay Out. 

The Auckland Pride Board said it welcomes "any and all rainbow people to be a part of the Auckland Pride Parade, including members of the NZ Police, who are invited to march in plain or fancy clothes". 

Auckland Pride Parade is a march down Ponsonby Rd. It's set to take place on February 16 next year, as a celebration of the rainbow community, which includes people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex.