Aurora Pride parade is back on -- city gets enough cops by offering more pay
The Aurora Pride parade scheduled for Sunday is back on after Aurora announced late Thursday afternoon that it had lined up enough police officers to provide security.
Officials say the city was able to find additional police officers for the event by offering them triple pay to work the overtime and extra-duty shifts.
"The city didn't just double down on our efforts; we tripled down by offering an unprecedented triple-time financial incentive to our officers," city spokesman Clayton Muhammad said in a statement.
Normally, officers working overtime and extra duty receive one-and-a-half times their regular pay.
Aurora's special events policy requires organizers to pay for police. But it was unclear Thursday night whether Aurora Pride or the city must pay the extra cost.
The announcement that the parade is back on came about three hours after an administrative law judge upheld the city's earlier revocation of the parade permit. The American Civil Liberties Union had said it would ask a federal judge to intervene.
"We are pleased that Aurora city officials have relented, reinstating the permit to Aurora Pride and allowing the Pride parade to go forward this weekend," said Ed Yohnka, communications and public policy director for the ACLU's Illinois chapter. "It is good that we have avoided the necessity for emergency litigation and that families and residents from across Aurora will be able to enjoy this event."
Aurora Pride and the ACLU disagreed with Aurora's argument that the city could cancel the parade because not enough police officers had signed up for extra work to provide security, traffic control, and crowd control.
The city says it can't order officers to work overtime or extra shifts for a parade, per the terms of its police unions' contracts. And at the hearing Thursday morning, a police lieutenant testified the city is understaffed Sunday for regular duties, let alone parade detail.
Police Lt. Chris Whitfield testified that the department required 56 sworn officers for the parade based on several factors, including location, crowd size and expected protesters.
As of Thursday morning, only 24 Aurora officers had signed up to work, he said. Seven to 10 officers who had previously signed up withdrew last week, Whitfield said. He said the police department is about 10% under authorized staff, and the department had tried for several weeks to get officers to sign up.
"Aurora Pride has been put in an impossible and fundamentally unfair position on essentially the eve of their big event," argued Kevin Fee, an attorney for the ACLU, which is represented Aurora Pride.
"A parade is constitutionally protected speech. If they (Aurora officials) can pull the plug, they give the police force an effective veto over the message of the parade," Fee said at the Thursday hearing.
The city has denied the permit revocation was tied to Mayor Richard Irvin criticizing parade organizers for asking police officers who march in the parade to not wear standard uniforms, carry service weapons or use official police vehicles.
"Nobody is trying to blame (Aurora) Pride for where we are at. This is the last thing in the world the police department would want," the city's attorney, John Murphy, said at the hearing. But "nobody would want the blood on their hands of an inadequately staffed event."
The city will have a Pride flag-raising ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday at One Aurora Plaza, 8 E. Galena Blvd. The police department has also changed its patch on social media from the official patch to one with rainbow stripes, as it has done in years past.