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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 July, 2003, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Uniformed officers march in Gay Pride
Brian Paddick at Pride
Commander Brian Paddick leads police officers in the parade
Uniformed police officers were among the 60,000 people taking part in this year's Gay Pride parade in London.

About 35 of the 80 policemen and women taking part were in their uniforms after rules were relaxed.

Leading them was the Met's Commander Brian Paddick, who pioneered a lenient approach to cannabis use when he was in charge in Lambeth.

Until now, off-duty police have only been allowed to attend the event in civilian clothes.

Campaigners hailed the landmark as a "sea change" in police attitudes toward the gay community.

The Pride Parade is our day to demonstrate for what we have still to achieve
Jason Pollock

Metropolitan Police chief Sir John Stevens made a video address to the crowd to appeal for more gay people to join the police force and help tackle hate crime.

"One way of reducing anti-gay hate crime is to contribute as a member of the MPS staff. I would encourage and positively welcome you to come and see if this is a career for you," Sir John said.

"We recognise that crimes against gay people are often not reported to police and that historically the gay community may not have felt confidence in us. We're committed to changing this."

A float in Pride

The new rules on wearing uniform did not apply to officers serving in Scotland, Dyfed-Powys in Wales, and eight forces in England including Hampshire and Dorset, where chief constables resisted the move.

One of the biggest event of its kind in Europe, the march passed the House of Commons, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square on the way to the Pride in the Park party in Hyde Park.

Last year, partygoers criticised the event's venue at Hackney Marsh in North London.

This year organisers were glad to be back in the centre of the city.

Gay icon

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Equal Rights Campaigners Stonewall, said: "This year, lesbian, gay and bisexual people haven't been shunted off to the outskirts of the city to celebrate Pride - we've been given centre stage at Hyde Park.

"This year's Pride has shown how far we've come over the last few decades."

Despite the rain, 60,000 people attended the pop concert in the park to see acts including Soft Cell, Appleton, Blue, Liberty X and Mis-Teeq as well as DJs such as Judge Jules and Boy George.

TV presenter and former Big Brother winner Brian Dowling co-presented the acts along with gay icon Graham Norton on the main stage.

As well as the entertainment on the parade, there will be floats and events drawing attention to human rights abuses against gay people around the world, with Amnesty International highlighting the situation in Egypt and Peter Tatchell and Outrage! campaigning about Zimbabwe.

Organiser Jason Pollock said: "The Pride Parade is our day to demonstrate for what we have still to achieve.

"We still have a long way to go to get what is rightfully ours in society."

In pictures: Gay Pride
26 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery
Hyde Park to host gay festival
28 Feb 03  |  England

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