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Illogical Editorial

June 14, 1987

Your June 6 treatment of the Craig Peyer dismissal placed readers in the understandingly difficult position of trying to sort reasoned fact from semi-hysterical commentary.

The Times so often presents a temperate recital of events and conclusions that your speculative article, punctuated by an illogical editorial that relies on fabrication for its conclusions, is totally out of context. One can only conclude that The Times rushed into print for dramatic, rather than journalistic, reasons--a shame given the already low public regard for the press in general.

Your reporter initially implies that there is something sinister in the fact that we did not conduct an independent criminal investigation of former Officer Peyer, but instead relied on the evidence gathered by San Diego police. The judge who bound Peyer over for trial relied on that evidence, and we felt no less comfortable making an identical judgment. In fact, to have conducted a parallel criminal investigation would have been unwarranted and totally inappropriate.

We of course carried out an independent investigation of those allegations which related exclusively to CHP procedures and policies, and when we told The Times (as well as other media) many weeks ago that we were conducting our own investigation, this is what we referred to. This information was merged with the facts of the criminal investigation into what became a completed package. Action based on this package was deferred for weeks, based upon the court's informal request to withhold any sanction of Peyer prior to the preliminary hearing--which The Times was well aware of.

Your "news" story presumably provided fodder for the editorial in that same June 6 issue, yet the latter descended from what had been merely bad judgment to the level of sheer balderdash. You stated that the CHP decision to "publicly declare" Craig Peyer guilty of murder is . . . "appalling."

The Highway Patrol has never announced the findings upon which we based the decision to terminate Peyer. These were made public by the Los Angeles Times and other media, which obtained the information from documents filed as required by law with the State Personnel Board. The "public declaration of guilt," if that is what you care to term it, then properly is laid at your feet.

You re-emphasized this error by concluding that "the judicial system should have been allowed to play itself out before the Highway Patrol blurted out its conclusions." Because you and other media "blurted out" the findings, you must be held culpable for transmitting this information to the public.

Peyer retains his right to a criminal trial, as well as to an appeal of our action. Thus his "rights" have not been abridged, as your editorial would have the reader believe. In fact you observed that you think what has transpired will not preclude a fair trial for Peyer in San Diego. I agree.

J.E. SMITH

Commissioner

Department of California Highway Patrol

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