According to reports from various news outlets, including ABC and Fox News, several hundred DUI arrests in Utah are now in question following a lawsuit filed last month. The two plaintiffs, Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia, filed their complaint in the U. S. District Court in Utah, alleging civil rights violations by former Utah State Trooper Lisa Steed. Romero alleges that Steed arrested him for DUI when his BAC was 0.00; Tapia similarly claims that Steed arrested her for DUI when she had not even been drinking. But although such claims are not unusual, the complaint calls into question more than just these two incidents.
Lisa Steed began working for the Utah Highway Patrol in 2002. And apparently she was quite a hard-charger, earning the title of Trooper of the Year in 2007. But her real claim to fame came in 2009, when she set a record of 400 DUI arrests in one year, more than double that of any other trooper. The record even earned her special recognition at the state capital.
But according to the Salt Lake Tribune, a 2010 internal memo from Steed’s supervisor called her success “questionable,” noting that most of her arrests were based primarily on pupil dilation or body tremors instead of breath or blood tests. And in 2012, while testifying in a DUI trial, Steed admitted to deliberately concealing violations of department policy; she testified that she would leave her wireless microphone in the car so that her interactions with suspects were not recorded. Thereafter, the prosecutor refused to prosecute her cases, and Steed was ultimately fired in November of 2012.
Reports note that several others are seeking to join in the lawsuit against Steed and the Utah Highway Patrol. And with an arrest record that large, it is possible that even more will come forward in the near future. There is little doubt, however, that it will be interesting to see how the case unfolds, reminding us that the quest for recognition and numbers can be detrimental to good police work.
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