Earlier this month Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn placed the city’s police chief, Kevin Thacker, on administrative leave pending an investigation. At the time, the reasons for the investigation were unclear. They are clear now, and perhaps he isn’t the only one who should be leaving.
The city announced on Wednesday that Thacker had been fired for alleged “inappropriate touching” of city employees. They also said Thacker had been “cautioned” for his behavior and refused to change it.
Thacker had been with the Sandy police force since 1983, and chief since 2014.
Thursday, the city released a heavily redacted report with enough unpleasant detail to make the mayor’s decision seem all the more justified. It sets out several instances of Thacker — who admits only to being a “hugger” and who has apologized for any offense given — allegedly directing his “hugs” to women with large breasts, pressing his chest to theirs, rubbing their backs and their bra straps and otherwise grazing their bodies.
Before that detail was released, City Councilman Steve Fairbanks made embarrassing and unjustifiable comments about Thacker’s alleged behavior. Fairbanks said he was “heartbroken” when he heard that Thacker was fired for alleged inappropriate touching.
Fairbanks said, “It’s a tough time in our society. It seems to be difficult for men and women to have any sort of relationship at all without something like this either occurring or being alleged to have occurred.”
And the coup de grace — “I just worry that the overall, the #metoo kind of movement, could end up being damaging to the overall [morale] to our employees.”
The #MeToo movement can’t be nearly as damaging as working in an environment of constant sexual harassment. But Fairbanks probably can’t imagine what that is like.
Fairbanks lamented the potential loss of people in the city not hugging each other, or even shaking hands. He said, “What I worry about is things like this preventing our employees from having congenial relationships.” Fairbanks’ forced confusion belies his innocence.
Adult men and woman are capable of telling the difference between inappropriate behavior and congenial camaraderie. For example, laughing, talking about family and eating lunch together are all harmless and congenial activities. The behavior outlined in the new report about Thatcher is not.
Conflating friendly activity with harassment, and a phony claim of not being able to tell the difference, is an underhanded way to attack the #MeToo movement for men who want to keep acting as some men do. And that’s not OK.
Mayor Bradburn deserves credit for quickly pursuing an investigation and taking action.
And at the very least, Councilman Fairbanks should update his sexual harassment training.