Unjustified Animus

Over the past year, the Santa Barbara News-Press has published a series of articles written by Peter Lance, a criminal defendant in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case. The articles attacked the SBPD officer who arrested him, Kasi Beutel, personally and professionally. Mr. Lance made allegations about the legality of the traffic stop and the validity of his breath test. He accused Officer Beutel of forging his signature and attempted to “investigate” her personal life by questioning her friends and family about her activities. His behavior seems both obsessive and paranoid, and goes beyond the usual antics of DUI defendants seeking to avoid conviction. Alleging officer incompetence, equipment malfunction, or simply refusing to take responsibility are all typical evasive actions taken by DUI defendants. Mr. Lance exceeded this; his personal attacks on Officer Beutel and her husband were (and still are) distasteful and wildly inaccurate.

The Santa Barbara Police Officers Association (SBPOA) has, out of an abundance of caution and respect for the criminal justice process, not commented on Lance’s behavior while his trial was underway. Though that time period was stressful and upsetting for Officer Beutel, who was relentlessly being attacked at a level that no professional should have to endure, fellow officers were only able to privately express their support for her, and their disappointment at the standards of “journalism” demonstrated by the News-Press. Many urged the SBPOA leadership to aggressively and publicly support Officer Beutel, but we felt it inappropriate to add fuel to the fire and did not want to be accused of attempting to interfere with the criminal case.

Now the News-Press has elected to revisit this issue, and has begun publishing yet another series of unjustified, irrelevant, and inaccurate attack pieces against Kasi Beutel. Though we believe in and support the freedom of the press, with such freedom comes a great responsibility. The SBPOA is greatly disappointed that the News-Press continues to engage in sub-par journalistic practices and allows Mr. Lance, who has clearly demonstrated a personal vendetta against Officer Beutel, to once again co-opt the front page of their paper.

We also would like to take this opportunity to state our unwavering support of Officer Beutel, who is one of the most decorated and successful DUI officers in the history of the Santa Barbara Police Department, with over 600 arrests in 2 years as a Drinking Driver Team officer. She was SBPD Officer of the Year for 2010 and the recipient of the 2009 and 2010 Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Awards. Kasi is a respected member of this department, passed an extensive background investigation prior to becoming a police officer, and demonstrated a high level of competence and dedication throughout her DUI enforcement assignment.

Peter Lance’s one-sided and spiteful vilification of an excellent police officer, mother, and wife, who works diligently to provide this community with dedicated police service, is a travesty of journalism. We rebuke Peter Lance and the Santa Barbara News-Press for these writings which are clearly intended to incite unjustified animus towards both Officer Beutel and all Santa Barbara Police Officers who serve our community.

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