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UHP misconduct

Published December 18, 2012 1:01 am

Better stats should be in place
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An outside expert consulted by The Salt Lake Tribune noted that the apparently high number of valid complaints lodged against Utah Highway Patrol officers suggests that, at least, the statewide agency isn't doing much to hide its shortcomings.

Such openness in public agencies is crucial, of course. But the way the agency has responded to requests for information about accusations of trooper misconduct might also be read as establishing that the UHP just isn't well-organized enough to engage in anything resembling a cover-up.

Last summer, The Tribune was told by a Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman that the UHP does not keep statistics on the number of allegations of official misconduct, criminal or otherwise, that are brought by members of the public against its troopers.

After that statement was reported in the newspaper last month, high-ranking patrol officers said the agency does so track such matters, with reports issued quarterly. It is even the job of one particular UHP sergeant to track complaints and to see to it that individual matters are kept on the desks of relevant supervisors until they are resolved.

And, we are now told, the complaints do get resolved. At least the figures from the last three years suggest that nearly all complaints from that time have been officially categorized as either unfounded or, when there was enough concern to proceed to a fuller investigation, the trooper in question was either exonerated or the complaint against him or her was "sustained." And, given that a majority of the more serious allegations led to an internal ruling that the citizen complaint was valid, it would again seem that, whatever else may be going on within the UHP, a big whitewash job is not.

Except, of course, for the fact that nobody outside the agency — and, apparently, not even some key people inside the agency — even knew about the process and about the statistics that should be useful in evaluating the competence of the individual officers and of the agency as a whole.

It is hard to imagine that any law enforcement agency would be so uninterested in statistics that might suggest patterns about, say, fatality accidents or high-crime areas.

Meanwhile, the UHP's apparent inability to police its own has led to the opening of an FBI investigation and the filing of a civil suit focused on one former trooper, Lisa Steed, found by two different judges to have lied under oath about DUI cases that were prosecuted on her evidence.

The unexamined life, Socrates said, is not worth living. And a police agency with an unanalyzed record of official misconduct is not worthy of trusting.




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