Lancashire Police: Crime Up, Pride Up, Mess Up

Regular readers will know that I complained to the Police about their active participation in the Lancaster Pride march in 2018. I made it clear that I was not objecting to the march itself, nor to the police’s role in ensuring the marchers’ safety. I objected to their participating in a quasi-political event and altering their uniforms and patrol cars’ liveries for the occasion.

My emails are in black, theirs in blue. You will observe that the final email went unanswered.


1)      Initial Complaint:

Sent 2nd June 2018 by myself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct 

On Saturday 19th May, uniformed police officers were actively participating in the Lancaster Pride March. Some had altered their uniforms, replacing their epaulettes with rainbow motifs; others wore rainbow makeup on their face; still others waved rainbow coloured banners. In addition, the formal police livery of a patrol car was altered to accommodate the PRIDE colours. The pride event had a political theme, demanding, understandably, greater rights and respect for LGBTQ+ people. It was attended by the Labour Party and political campaigning took place on the day, as it has on previous years.

By publicly and enthusiastically endorsing and contributing towards an event of this nature, Lancashire Constabulary may no longer be seen as impartial. Any person accused of a homophobic crime may not perceive Lancashire Constabulary as being a fair and independent body of law enforcement as it has compromised its neutrality and become partisan. I would expect the police to be present at such a big PRIDE march, to maintain order and see to the safety of the marchers and general public. By actively participating, they crossed a bridge too far. I did raise my concerns after last year’s event with both the Constabulary and the Commissioner’s office. The former responded promptly and courteously; the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office did not respond at all until I threatened them with escalating it to the IPCC. At that point, a hasty email was received, explaining that participating officers did so in their own time. I then required why they were wearing uniforms to which no reply was given.

A Marsden


2)      Response from the Independent Office for Police Conduct 

Received 6th July 2018

Dear Mr Marsden,

It has been brought to my attention that you did not receive a reply to your e-mail of the 9 November 2017, in which you were enquiring as to why officers were wearing their police uniforms at the Lancaster PRIDE event, even though they were attending in their own time.

Please accept my sincere apologies for this oversight in responding and be assured I will raise this with the officer concerned.

However, I should advise you that the decision to allow police officers to wear their uniforms is a matter for the Chief Constable and not the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Being mindful of the delay, I have taken the opportunity to raise this matter with the appropriate senior officer within the Constabulary and understand that as part of the Constabulary's commitment to providing a service to the diverse communities of Lancashire, which embraces diversity and promotes equality, the Constabulary has actively participated in Pride events for a number of years in support of the LGBT+ communities of Lancashire and beyond.

Pride events are a fantastic opportunity for the Constabulary to demonstrate its support whether it is by attendance, policing the event, identifiable epaulettes or through one of three fleet response cars. Officers are invited to attend Pride by the LGBT network and can attend in their uniform or own clothes; the majority attends as part of their role or in their own time to show support.

I am assured that officer attendance does not impact upon their impartiality. Hate crime is one of the few crimes that is based upon the ‘perception of the victim or another’. It is not for the police to judge what is or what is not a hate crime and therefore, they record and investigate all reports accordingly.

This commitment is not restricted to Pride events but is seen in support of numerous events across the county with groups of all cultures, ages, abilities and backgrounds. I hope this is of assistance to you and again apologise for the length of time it has taken to respond to your enquiry.

Yours sincerely,



3)      Response from Lancashire Constabulary:

Received 6th August 2018

Dear Mr Marsden,

 I have been asked to respond on behalf of the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) with regards to your email dated the 9th of July.

 I understand the origins of Pride events were one of political protest and campaigning however this is no longer the case and therefore members of the Constabulary both uniformed and non-uniformed represent the organisation to display our commitment to equality and diversity and to engage with the LGBT community. Officers and staff who attend do volunteer their time however as they are there to represent the Constabulary for the reasons mentioned above. For me I cannot see a parallel between this and grocery shopping.

 With regard to the altering of uniforms, uniforms are not altered permanently, items are added to highlight the aforementioned support for the LGBT community purely when attending events, much in the same way as wearing a poppy on remembrance Sunday.

 The Constabulary is committed to promoting equality and diversity across all of our communities and where appropriate will support events and celebrations at all levels to both demonstrate our commitment and engage with the people we serve.


Chief Inspector XXXX


4)      My Response to Lancashire Constabulary

Sent 14th August 2018

Dear Chief Inspector XXXX,

Thank you for your response. Although I note you addressed my point about grocery shopping, I feel my second question remains essentially unanswered.

As 'The Constabulary is committed to promoting equality and diversity across all of our communities', can you provide the names of other groups within the county in whose events you march and for whom uniforms are altered? For example, will your officers wear epaulettes with Islamic symbols at Eid celebrations? I suspect the answer is not, and that no other minority group receive the attention and uniform alteration which takes place at the Pride marches- though I sincerely anticipate being corrected on this point.

The poppy symbol, which both of us mentioned, is a badge rather than an alteration to uniform, and is worn so widely, that no inference of political allegiance or opinion can be made. This is why it is the only badge allowed to be worn by judicial office holders in court. It is not therefore comparable to the altered uniforms of the Pride marches.

Secondly, if the event is no longer political as you suggest, why did the local Labour Party run a stall asking people to sign petitions? In the 2017 march, why were your officers’ fellow marchers wearing t-shirts saying ‘I’m Backing Cat Smith’ and others carrying placards saying ‘Smash the System’? Contrary to your point, the Pride movement has not shed its political focus.

According to UK Crime Stats, 20,562 offences were committed in the county in May 2018, up from 17,337 the previous May. Whereas I acknowledge that statistics can be misleading, I would suggest that if the constabulary you help to manage spent less time encouraging its officers to go marching on their rest days, and concentrated on its primary raison d'être, all people- gay and straight- would feel safer.

Yours Sincerely,

Alan Marsden


No further response was received. Readers may draw their own conclusions from this silence.

Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay