A Chief, His Subordinate, and an Intimate Relationship Between the Two Weave Tangled Web at One Utah Police Department
By Ken K. Gourdin
Former Provo, Utah* Police Chief John King recently admitted to a sexual relationship with a former department volunteer. Although he says it was consensual, she says it was not. For Salt Lake Tribune coverage of the affair, see here (last accessed June 2, 2017): http://www.sltrib.com/home/5354806-155/investigative-records-ex-provo-police-chief-admitted.
In response, I noted that the imbalance of power between the parties—reportedly, she felt pressure to continue the relationship so as to remain in the Chief’s good graces and maintain her position—makes the relationship problematic even if Chief King is right that it was consensual. I wrote:
What if one of the (now former) Chief’s officers had been involved in a similar relationship? Are we really to believe, with all of the Chief’s command-level and training experience, that such a relationship would have raised no red flags for him and that he would not, at the very least, have cautioned the officer involved about the vast number and large size of its potential pitfalls? If so, then, personally, I don’t think he has learned everything one would expect someone with that level of law enforcement experience to learn.**
And even if everything about the relationship, all the encounters, and everything that happened therein was totally consensual, it’s still problematic because of the imbalance of power between the participants. As passé as this idea has become, law enforcement officers and other criminal justice system actors still have a duty to avoid, not only actual impropriety, but even the mere appearance of impropriety.
*Provo, a city of about 120,000 inhabitants, is home to Brigham Young University, the flagship higher education institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is Utah’s third-most-populous city, and is about 40 miles south of the state’s capital and most populous city, Salt Lake City.
**Or perhaps the Chief simply adheres to the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.”