Lisa Steed began working for the Utah Highway Patrol as a dispatcher in 2002 and quickly shot up the ranks. In 2007, she became the first female officer to earn the title of “Trooper of the Year.” In 2009, she set a record of 400 DUI arrests in one year, double the number of any other highway trooper and received special recognition at the state capital. Among her many recognitions, she received Unit Citations in 2007 and 2011, a Career Achievement Award in 2010, Certificates of Commendation in 2007 and 2010, State Senate Awards in 2007 and 2009, and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in 2010.
“With her training and experience, it’s second nature for her to find these people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” her DUI squad boss at the time, Lt. Steve Winward, told the Deseret News. During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed explained that it was simply a “numbers game,” since one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you’re going to run into them,” she said.
But in 2010, an internal memo from Steed’s supervisor questioned her methods, noting that most of her arrests were based primarily on pupil dilation or body tremors rather than breath or blood tests. He wrote that the bulk of Steed’s arrestees had no signs of “impairing drugs” in their systems. He was concerned that it was only a matter of time before defense attorneys began probing into her credibility.
Nothing was done, but in 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn’t know she was violating agency policy. By April of 2012, her credibility had come into question so much that a prosecutor said he would no longer prosecute DUIs if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.
At that time, Steed was taken off road patrol and was eventually fired in November. According to the Huffington Post, she was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.
Steed contested the firing, and in a written opinion issued on June 28, 2013, Hearing Officer Katherine Fox upheld the discharge finding, among other things, that Steed was responsible for the conduct she engaged in and acted in a way to undermine the public’s trust in law enforcement actions. Moreover, though she “had more than one chance to adhere more closely to the directives she was given and follow more diligently the rules and regulations governing her work,” she failed to do so, “as she continued to exercise flawed judgment and play fast and loose with the rules.”
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit is pending against Steed and the Utah Highway Patrol for arresting sober people for DUIs and arrests of a disproportionately high number of poor people and minorities. Dozens of cases are pending at the state level seeking to overturn convictions where Steed was the arresting officer. The FBI is reportedly conducting its own criminal investigation of Steed.