Former Sandy police chief describes himself as a ‘hugger’ in letter he penned to the department after being fired for ‘inappropriate touching’

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker appears for a news conference Tuesday, June 20, 2017, regarding the June 6 shooting of Memorez Rackley, her two sons and another girl.

In a letter to the Sandy police department, former Chief Kevin Thacker — whose firing was made public earlier this week — describes himself as a “hugger” and says his goal was to make people feel “cared for,” not to cause offense.

The letter was posted on social media by Thacker’s family members Wednesday, the day after Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn announced that Thacker had been fired for “inappropriate touching” and “unprofessional” behavior.

Bradburn declined to elaborate on those allegations, saying only that the alleged behavior had spanned over a number of years, and that Thacker had been “cautioned” in the past but had not changed his behavior,. Thacker began his term as chief in 2014.

In his letter to the department, Thacker expressed his hopes that if he took better care of his team members, then they would in turn “take better care of the community.”

“Police work is a difficult job with very few perks, but a lot of arm chair quarterbacks telling us what we do wrong,” Thacker wrote. “I wanted you all to know I was behind you and supported you.

“Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes as I learned and tried to conform to a position I never sought,” Thacker continued. “As you all know, I’m a ‘hugger,’ I always have been. If I offended any of you, I’m sorry, it was never my intent.“

Bradburn told reporters that the chief was placed on administrative leave April 2, after a city human resources worker brought allegations against Thacker to the mayor’s attention.

In Thacker’s letter, he wrote that he “respectfully disagree[d]” with Bradburn’s comments that Thacker had created a negative working environment.

“I feel we made tremendous progress,” Thacker wrote of his time as chief, “and are better now than we were four years ago.”

He added that it is “not the chief or administration that make a police department great, it is the people who serve, and you are the best of the best.”

Thacker had been employed by the Sandy police department since 1983.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn announced Tuesday, April 24, 2018 during a news conference that the city has fired Sandy Police Chief Kevin Thacker after allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct. All allegations involve police department employees.

When asked by reporters whether the previous mayoral administration knew about the allegations, Bradburn told them to ask his predecessor, Tom Dolan.

Bradburn defeated Dolan in the mayoral race in November and took office in January. Before that, Dolan held the office for 24 years. Bradburn ran on the platform that it was time for a change in the administration and described Dolan as a member of the “good ol’ boys club.”

Dolan did not respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment. Thacker also didn’t return calls from a Tribune reporter.

Bradburn specified that the city’s investigation into Thacker’s behavior was not a criminal investigation, and declined to comment on the former chief’s job performance outside of the investigation, saying that his own three months in office wasn’t long enough to form an opinion.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jason Nielsen referred all questions regarding Thacker to Deputy Mayor Evelyn Everton. Everton did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Councilman Steve Fairbanks said Tuesday that he worked closely with the police department and got along with Thacker. Bradburn told Fairbanks on Tuesday why Thacker had been placed on leave, according to the councilman.

Fairbanks added he was shocked and “heartbroken” by the allegations, which he believes to be true. He also said he lamented that Bradburn was faced with something like this so early in his mayoral tenure.

Though Fairbanks said he has never heard of anything similar happening at the city, this sort of complaint likely would not reach him. He said he worried about how the situation might affect employees.

“I just worry that the overall, the #metoo kind of movement, could end up being damaging to the overall [morale] to our employees,” Fairbanks said.

If anyone is being assaulted or harassed, Fairbanks said, the misconduct should be reported and stopped immediately. But the city is a “tight-knit” community, he said. He doesn’t want to see people stop hugging each other or shaking hands because they are worried about how it could be perceived.

“What I worry about is things like this preventing our employees from having congenial relationships,” Fairbanks said.

In addition to family members who expressed disappointment in the city’s decision to fire Thacker, several community members posted their frustrations online, referring to the move as an injustice resulting from misrepresentation.