Garfield County Sheriff’s Office
PANGUITCH — An officer with the Utah Department of Public Safety has been arrested for allegedly driving drunk in his unmarked patrol car while headed to a training session at Lake Powell.
Jason James Whitehead, 35, of Ogden, who is also an officer with the State Bureau of Investigation, is charged in Garfield County Justice Court with DUI, a class B misdemeanor, and other charges.
On April 24, Whitehead was pulled over in his Dodge Charger on U.S. 89 after police received reports of a “reckless car with a reckless driver,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 6th District Court.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said multiple witnesses called police as Whitehead traveled through Iron and Garfield counties.
A UHP trooper pulled over Whitehead and detected a “strong odor of alcohol” while speaking to him, the affidavit states.
The trooper then noticed an open bottle of vodka in the vehicle that was half full, according to the warrant. After the trooper realized Whitehead was a State Bureau of Investigation employee, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was called to take over the investigation.
Sheriff James Perkins responded to the scene himself and observed that Whitehead “had slurred speech (and) red, glassy eyes, and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol,” the warrant states.
After failing a couple of field sobriety tests, Whitehead was “very unsteady on his feet” and needed assistance getting into Perkins’ car, according to the affidavit.
Whitehead has been with the Utah Department of Public Safety for more than four years. He has been placed on administrative leave. Royce said Whitehead is currently assigned to the Major Crimes Unit. He was on his way to train with the department’s dive team when he was pulled over.
Whitehead has had no other major disciplinary action against him during his time with the department, Royce said.
“I’m very disappointed when it’s found that one of our own, who has committed to protect, made a bad choice that could harm others. We were fortunate in this incident that no one was hurt, and we have taken immediate action to address this incident. This is a very rare occurrence that does not represent the conduct of the nearly 1,600 men and women of the Utah Department of Public Safety who have dedicated their careers to providing caring and professional service,” Commissioner Keith Squires said in a prepared statement.
In addition to the DUI charge, Whitehead is also charged with two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence, a class B misdemeanor, and having an open container in his vehicle while on the highway, a class C misdemeanor.
“Our client, like all our law enforcement clients, are entitled to due process under the law like all Utahns and all American citizens,” attorney Bret Rawson, who works with the Fraternal Order of Police and specializes in representing officers, said Wednesday.
Rawson said it was important to remember that Whitehead had served Utah for 12 years.
Prior to being hired as a UHP trooper, Whitehead was a deputy with the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office. He suffered minor injuries in 2013 while investigating a crash on I-15 near 2500 South and another vehicle slid into him while he was inside his car.