A police officer in Utah has found herself in serious hot water after a series of lawsuits revealed she may have built her reputation as a tough cop on a foundation of fake DUI arrests. The Utah Highway Patrol member developed a reputation as a prolific arresting officer, hauling away thousands of suspected drunk drivers. Her reputation was so legendary in fact that one supervisor described her abilities as “uncanny.” Uncanny indeed.
The officer, Lisa Steed, was so revered in her department hat she became the first woman to ever be awarded “Trooper of the Year.” The praise didn’t stop there; Steed was considered a rising star and received constant praise for her record setting number of arrests.
Thankfully for innocent drivers in Utah, the rising star appears to have faded fast. Steed was recently fired by the Utah Highway Patrol and is now facing a number of lawsuits alleging bogus DUI arrests and false police reports. One case involved a man who was stopped for swerving and booked on DUI charges despite passing a field sobriety test and having a BAC of 0.00.
So far two victims have filed suit but many expect news of Steed’s firing to result in dozens or even hundreds more coming forward. In fact, the attorneys in the first case are asking that it be turned into a class action. Though her career began in 2002, attorneys believe 2006 is when the bulk of the suspicious arrests began and since that time Steed may have pulled over as many as 1,500 people on suspicion of drunk driving.
The suit, which also names the Utah Highway Patrol as a defendant, claims that the department ignored what should have been clear indications of Steed’s wrongdoing. Her consistently better-than-average DUI arrest performance should never have been ignored for so long. The numbers reveal just how far outside the normal range Steed was operating. In 2009, Steed was named a member of the Highway Patrol’s DUI unit. Her performance that first year was unprecedented: 400 DUI arrests. The number was amazing and set a departmental record. Even more shocking was that her 400 arrests were more than twice as many as any other member of the Highway Patrol. Rather than balk, her bosses gave her a special award.
By 2012, Steed’s shine had begun to fade. In one case she admitted to leaving her microphone in her vehicle while making a stop so that her bosses would not know she had been violating department regulations. A few months later another trial went so badly that the prosecutor in charge informed the Highway Patrol that he would no longer prosecute any DUI cases that relied solely on Steed’s testimony.
By the fall, an internal memo had been issued that noted a series of questionable arrests by Steed and how in the majority of her DUI cases there were few if any indications of intoxication among the suspects. A month later Steed was taken off road patrol and, soon thereafter, fired.
The tragedy for those that were caught up in Steed’s misdeeds is great. One victim says his arrest cost him his security clearance and almost his job. Another spent thousands of dollars on attorneys, all to fight what were fictitious charges. Dozens of others lost days off of work and suffered the embarrassment of having to go before a judge on drunk driving charges despite having done nothing wrong. Each fake arrest resulted in serious disruption to innocent citizens’ lives.
For her part, Steed has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney says that Steed was an honorable officer and is now in the midst of appealing her firing and trying to get her old job back. We can only hope her supervisors keep her off the job and away from the public.
Source: “Utah Highway Patrol trooper accused of false DUI arrests, lawsuit says,” by Cheryl Chumley, published at WashingtonTimes.com.