Story by Garth Minton – BTP Branch Chair
In January of this year a happy coincidence came about in that my friend Imraan Sathar, a fellow IPA member belonging to BTP branch, mentioned that he and a few other mutual friends had a trip to San Francisco planned in June. I had already looked into heading over to SF myself for my summer jaunt and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to link up with his group.
I wanted to do something a little different whilst in the city, and so with a few months to go until we jetted off I used the IPA network to get in touch with Calvin Chow, the president of USA region, who fortuitously happens to live in the SF area. Calvin was supportive from the get-go, and when I expressed an interest in myself and Imraan joining in with the SFPD’s LGBT Pride parade celebrations he wasted no time in making all the requisite arrangements for us.
June rolled around and on a biblically rainy day we flew out of Heathrow bound for sunnier climes, custodian lids and tunics safely stowed in our luggage! We spent a few days taking in the sights and soaking up the rays before starting Sunday with a breakfast at Mission police station, where Calvin had arranged for us to be met by Capt. Teresa Ewins who was to look after us for the remainder of the day. There we were also introduced to various other police officers who would also be marching in the parade, including relatively new recruit to the force Cameron Coulter. We all chewed the fat about the differences and similarities in police work on both sides of the Atlantic before we were briefed by the local Captain, and along with a contingent of FBI agents we boarded a street-car bound for the parade route.
We managed to brave the heat which was rather stifling in our tunics and helmets! The start of the parade was taken up with posing for photographs with lots of officers (including the chief of police!) as well as members of the public. Imraan even bumped into a former Chief Superintendent from Avon & Somerset police, proving that wherever you go there’s usually a Bobby not too far away! The parade itself was a fantastic occasion; it was great to see the city turn out in support of the LGBT community and also in support of its law enforcement personnel. Both our jaws hurt from smiling for photos by the parade’s conclusion.
Later that evening I finally had a chance to meet Calvin and thank him for all his efforts in accommodating us; we were invited to a private party laid on by friends of his which was a real family atmosphere with home-made Mexican food and guacamole (and a liberal helping of alcohol!) We were able to exchange a few gifts with Calvin and future plans were mentioned of reciprocal visits to London. Without the IPA, none of this would have been possible. I think what stands out most was the intimate and friendly nature with which Imraan and I were treated by all who knew Calvin, and by extension the rest of our group when we were all invited back the following night to Calvin’s former patrol partner’s place for another party! The sense of returning to the UK having made so many new friends was quite unique, and I’m reminded of the key driving force of friendship behind our organisation every time I think of the trip.