WASILLA — A late-night taco craving in Anchorage landed a longtime Wasilla police officer in jail, arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
Lt. Jean Achee was driving from the Anchorage airport a little before 1 a.m., May 28 when the city-owned Ford Explorer he was driving was called in as driving erratically, according to charging documents filed in Anchorage District Court.
“Police reports indicate a citizen called 911 to report defendant was driving erratically, hit the curb, (was) speeding and weaving in and out of traffic,” the documents say. “Defendant exhibited signs of intoxication and performed poorly on field sobriety tests.”
Achee, a 20-year veteran of the Wasilla Police Department who recently retired following his arrest, blew a .170 blood alcohol content, more than twice the legal limit of .08, said Anita Shell, a public information officer with APD. She said that according to the arrest report, Achee said he had just debarked a plane returning from Mexico and that he finished his last drink about two hours prior to being stopped.
The city of Wasilla vehicle Achee’s was driving was observed by the 911 caller pulling into the drive-thru at the Taco Bell on Tudor Road, Shell said. APD caught up to him soon after and stopped the white Explorer near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads. Although one APD officer observed that Achee was a member of the Wasilla Police Department, his infraction was handled like any other, Shell said.
“We take a very zero tolerance stance to DUIs in this department,” she said. “It’s not a discretionary call. He had to undergo field sobriety tests, he failed, he was brought down to determine his blood alcohol content and found to be under the influence.”
Court records show Achee was booked into the Anchorage jail and held on $250 bail and was released later that day. He was arraigned in Anchorage District Court July 1 and a pre-trial hearing on the DUI charge has been set for 8:30 a.m., Aug. 12.
After his May 28 arrest, the city looked into the incident, said Wasilla Police Chief Gene Belden, who declined to comment on specifics of Achee’s case. He said Achee retired from the department on July 2 before the city could hold an official hearing into the incident.
“When you get a report like that, you try to figure out if it did or did not happen,” Belden said. “If it did happen, that person would be suspended without pay pending a hearing with the mayor, then the mayor would make a decision whether to continue the suspension or anything (else).”
While an officer works through that personnel process, he or she can also choose to quit or retire, if eligible for that, Belden said. When asked if Achee’s retirement had anything to do with the May 28 DUI arrest, Belden said “that’s a strong possibility.”
Messages left for Achee and his attorney weren’t returned as of press time.
Belden also praised the APD for its handling of the situation.
“APD did the right thing,” he said. “They handled it like they would with Joe Blow citizen, and we would do the same thing.”
The DUI arrest tarnished what Belden said was an otherwise distinguished law enforcement career. Achee spent 20 years with the Wasilla PD, and more time before that with other departments around the state. A check of court records shows only a couple of speeding tickets in the past 16 years, besides the DUI.
Driving under the influence is a serious offense, Belden said, and more so for members of law enforcement.
“We’re kind of held to a higher standard, which it should be,” he said. “This is unfortunate.”
The chief said Achee will be missed.
“I can say one thing for Achee, and that’s he’s a very excellent police officer and an excellent supervisor,” Belden said.
Contact Greg Johnson at 352-2269 or