The politics of keeping law enforcement on a moral footing has always been tricky, but in recent years more and more people are holding crooked cops accountable for their actions. Judges, prosecutors, and police all work together to ensure criminals pay the price for the crimes they commit, but the three legs of our justice system don’t provide any checks and balances for one another. That’s why it’s so rare to find a judge or a prosecutor willing to charge a police officer, or vice versa. They need to work together in order to put the bad guys behind bars.
That wasn’t the case when Mantua, Utah Police Chief Shane Zilles was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI. Zilles was pulled over by a fellow officer after he was spotted greatly exceeding the posted speed limit and failing to maintain control over his vehicle. A number of officers were called in to ensure everything was done by the book, and Zilles was only arrested after failing several field sobriety tests. He remained cooperative.
Investigators believe Zilles was driving under the influence of prescription medications. In order to be found not guilty of this charge, his attorney will have to prove both that he was prescribed any medication found in his system, and that he was not aware that the drugs would leave him too inebriated to operate a vehicle. He may face a harsher sentence if found guilty because he was driving in his patrol car at the time of arrest. Then again, he might be more likely to be sentenced lightly as a professional courtesy.
Arresting officers and investigators do not suspect that any alcohol or illegal drugs played a role.
Utah is somewhat infamous for light sentencing in such cases. In 2018, the then-director of Salt Lake City’s 911 dispatch center and Layton City council member, Scott Freitag, was arrested for DUI and put in a subsequent guilty plea. He had been driving with an open container, and a gun was found in the vehicle. He was fired from the dispatch center, and sentenced to three days in jail. He was also hit with a fine and community service.
One year later, he was elected as the mayor of Layton City and all its 76,691 residents.
Freitag plans to continue his redemption story, but voters will probably elect a new mayor later this year for the 2020 to 2021 term. He does not plan to run.