SANDY, Utah, April 26, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — A redacted version of an independent investigation that led to the firing of Sandy Police Department Chief Kevin Thacker was released Thursday evening.
Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn fired Thacker on Tuesday — effective immediately — after an investigation found substantial evidence that the chief committed inappropriate, unwanted acts on department employees.
The chief had been on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the independent investigation, conducted by the law firm of Scott A. Hagen, Ray Quinney and Nebeker.
The report, in part, said: “The interviews revealed that Chief Thacker uses physical contact in demonstrating emotional support for employees under his direction. The physical contact is different from women to men. He hugs women on a very regular basis, while he hugs men only rarely. Moreover, his hugs, as reported by multiple women who experienced them, and by male employees who observed them, (a) last too long, leaving participants and witnesses to feel ‘awkward’ about the situation; (b) are often chest-to-chest in a way described by some women as allowing him to press his chest against their breasts, and include him rubbing his hand up and down their back and across their bra straps and touching his cheek to theirs; and (c) are sometimes ‘side hugs’ where he also rubs his hand across the bra strap, up and down the side of the body, and sometimes touches the side of the female’s breast. Other physical contact includes touching the hands of female employees in an awkward manner, touching the neck or shoulders, and touching or patting upper thighs.”
The report indicates that a complaint was made that was “addressed informally” and Thacker “gave a full apology.”
“However, the hugging of female employees, as described above, continues,” the report goes on. “No one has made a formal complaint, but the women who were interviewed stated it is not welcome to them. Male employees find the conduct to be unprofessional and embarrassing.”
However, the report adds: “I found no evidence that Chief Thacker has committed any actual sexual assault, nor any evidence of overtly sexual behavior between him and any female employee, whether consensual or not.”
One witness, when interviewed, said Thacker had contact with her in several ways that made her uncomfortable. He hugged her too long, and in ways that made her feel uncomfortable. “He laid his hand on her hand when she had it on her desk in front of her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable,” the report said. “He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulder and leaned over as he was showing her something. He touched or patted her thigh on at least two occasions in his car.”
Another witness said that she “plays the game” to get promoted and protect her job. “At one point, she was really obvious about avoiding Chief Thacker and not talking to him,” the report said. “When that happened, he was less friendly towards her. She wanted to stay on his good side, so she started being more friendly and allowing the hugs again, and he started being friendly again. She thought he would stop when he became chief, but he didn’t.”
When interviewed, Thacker said he acknowledges that he does hug female employees, but he claims he hugs males as often as females.
“He said these are very proper hugs, with little contact between him and the person he is hugging,” the report said. “He said that he usually gives side hugs only, and that when he gives a side hug, he touches only the arms of the person he is hugging.”
“This particular behavior is not something I am willing to tolerate,” Bradburn told reporters at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
“This is the right decision for the police department and the city of Sandy,” the mayor said. “It sends the message this behavior will not be tolerated by the city of Sandy.”
Bradburn said a nationwide search would be conducted to fill the position left vacant by Thacker. Until a permanent replacement is selected, Sandy Deputy Police Chief William O’Neal will continue to be the acting police chief. O’Neal stepped into that role on April 2, when the investigation began.
Thacker was sworn in as chief in May of 2014. The Sandy Police Department consists of 112 sworn officers and 36 civilian employees, according to its website. Sandy has a population of 89,000 on 22.3 square miles.