New Salem police patch affirms 'rainbow' pride

HADLEY GREEN/ Staff photo Salem Police officer Larry Puleo and Capt. Fred Ryan wear colorful patches for pride and breast cancer awareness on their uniforms. 10/05/2018

SALEM — The city's police logo is a bit more colorful, a step being made in the name of pride.

Officers are being given the chance to sport an alternative department patch during October, in which the circle behind the witch silhouette has been filled in with the colors of the LGBTQ pride flag.

The patches are an alternative the department is allowing officers to wear throughout October, ahead of voting on a transgender rights ballot question in early November, according to police Capt. Conrad Prosniewski. They'll also be allowed during — and more tailored for — the month of June, recognized globally as LGBTQ Pride Month.

A referendum vote is on the ballot for state elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Question 3 targets a 2016 transgender rights law ensuring individuals can use public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, even if that does not match their biological gender. A "yes" vote would affirm the law and protect it; a "no" vote would repeal it.

The patch idea came to Salem in May, when a retired officer from Pennsylvania reached out to Salem police asking if they had a rainbow patch. In time, the officer shipped a patch from his department that includes the rainbow flag.

"He said, 'Do you have one, and if you do, can you send me one?'" said police Chief Mary Butler. "And I said, 'Why the hell don't we?" We have the Pride Parade here. We have NAGLY here (North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ Youth). We have No Place For Hate."

So a pride-infused police patch only made sense. And It's not the department's only alternative patch. Salem police also have the option of wearing a pink one to promote awareness of breast cancer.

After being designed earlier this year, the first shipment of rainbow patches were delivered to officials this week. 

LGBTQ advocates were quick to spread pictures of the patches. That included Gary "Gigi" Gill, a well-known LGBTQ rights activist in the city, who shared an image of two of the patches, celebrating what he said were efforts in the city that have "finally paid off."

Since the patches just arrived, Butler doesn't know yet how many officers will opt to wear them.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, meanwhile, celebrated the patches and shared a photo on social media with the hashtags #LoveisLove and #YesOn3 midway into the week.

Although there's a ballot question coming up for a vote next month, Butler rejected any suggestion that the patches are political.

"It's definitely protecting the rights of others, and it's definitely about welcoming," Butler said. "We have to be fair and impartial in everything we do — and that's across the spectrum of everybody we encounter."

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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