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UHP Maj. Mike Rapich, in the same interview as Fuhr, said he only knows of one instance in which Steed’s camera was not mounted properly, and that was the same incident in which Steed was disciplined for not having her microphone on.
That video, also shared with The Tribune, shows Steed’s camera was off or aimed at her car’s floor until after the suspect was already stopped. Then Steed put the camera back into its proper position on the dash before administering the field sobriety tests.
As for the concerns defense attorneys shared with prosecutors, Fuhr said they were never forwarded to UHP headquarters and administrators there only learned of them through the internal affairs investigation in 2012.
"Whenever we had a complaint, we would call around and ask how she’s doing," Fuhr said.
Prosecutors, Fuhr added, always answered, "She’s a star."
UHP conducted 11 prior internal affairs investigations into Steed before the one undertaken in 2012. The first internal affairs investigation was in 2004, two years after she began with UHP. The allegations ranged from improper procedure — which Rapich said could be as minor as rudeness — to excessive force and false arrest.
Only in the 12th case were any of the allegations against Steed sustained. Rapich acknowledged 12 internal affairs investigations were on the "upper limit" of what you would expect from a trooper of Steed’s tenure, but emphasized the number can be skewed by how much time a trooper spends on the road and dealing with the public as opposed to a desk assignment.
Skordas said the prior investigations are not relevant.
"If people complain about her, that’s one thing," Skordas said, "but if it’s not sustained, you have to give her the benefit of the doubt."
In his 2010 memo, Sgt. Rob Nixon said he reviewed 20 of Steed’s arrests for driving under the influence of drugs and found in seven of those cases, toxicology tests showed the driver had only a low amount of drugs, referred to as metabolite. Four other drivers had no drugs in their system, according to Nixon’s memo.
Yet in every case, Steed wrote reports claiming the drivers showed signs of impairment, such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors. Nixon referred to "a pattern" of conflicting information between Steed’s arrest reports and the laboratory results and said: "This is something that needs to be addressed before defense attorneys catch on and her credibility along with the DUI squad’s credibility is compromised."
UHP last year said they addressed some of Nixon’s concerns with Steed, but apparently no formal review was done until Winward undertook it.
Fuhr said the Winward review demonstrates Steed always had cause to suspect the person she arrested was impaired or otherwise not supposed to drive. Even in the few cases where the toxicology tests did not reveal drugs, an admission of recent drug use or other suspicious signs could be used as evidence to convict someone of a charge of driving with a controlled substance in their system.
Also, the Nixon memo has been misinterpreted, Fuhr said. Nixon was not accusing Steed of arresting innocent people, but rather saying she sometimes arrested people on suspicion of the wrong charge. Utah has separate offenses for drivers under the influence of drugs and those who only have drugs in their system.
Nixon’s memo also described helping Steed arrest a man who showed little sign of impairment, but whom Steed reported to be exhibiting dilated pupils and tremors. Fuhr said Nixon got that case wrong, and pointed to documents saying the driver admitted to using meth two days earlier, and was "pretty hooked." Documents indicated he tested positive for meth. Steed’s report said she also found a baggy with white powder and a pipe with meth residue.
The court case was not so cut-and-dried. After that driver was charged in Salt Lake County Justice Court with misdemeanor DUI, drug possession and two traffic violations, charges were dismissed in 2011. A court docket says the prosecutor dismissed the charges for "evidentiary reasons." Attorneys in the case did not respond to messages seeking a further explanation. UHP did not make Nixon available for an interview with The Tribune.
Hamilton said he has been unable to determine how many of Steed’s arrests resulted in successful prosecutions. UHP has said it does not have those numbers.
UHP is having to defend Steed in the civil rights lawsuit. Fuhr, who may give a deposition in that case, expressed frustration at news reports saying Steed was fired for making false arrests. She was fired for problems with her testimony, and UHP, Fuhr said, has not found evidence Steed manufactured evidence.
"When these stories go out," Fuhr said of the false arrest allegations, "it hurts every single trooper."
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