>A TIMES-STANDARD EDITORIAL
>"Sheriff can't keep anybody guessing"
>If you didn't see this one coming, you haven' been paying attention.
>After a tree fell and killed Earth First protester David Chain on
>Pacific Lumber Co. land, the word "lawsuit" was thrown around almost
>immediately. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department was sent to
>investigate, and both Pacific Lumber and Chain's family brought in their
>own investigators. Pacific Lumber always does internal investigations in
>industrial accidents, but Earth First's move was a clear signal that the
>organization didn't trust the Sheriff's Department.
>And why should it? Unwanted haircuts, pepper spray and unsightly
>incidents make Earth First wary of the Sheriff's Department. Also, the
>Sheriff's Department has no interest whatsoever in timber harvest plans,
>buffer zones and the like - timber-cutting rules that Earth First
>members were protesting. Those laws are meant to be enforced by the
>state Department of Forestry. Trespassing, though, is a law the
>Sheriff's Department is concerned with, and there's no doubt the Earth
>First was trespassing the day of the accident. Earth First has a reason
>to be worried - its members were breaking the law, and that will be the
>easiest thing for the sheriff's investigators to prove.
>So now the Sheriff's Department is in a tough place. With Earth First,
>Pacific Lumber and the public waiting anxiously, sheriff's investigators
>have to gather all the information they can and file a report to the
>district attorney. The process could take weeks.
>In the meantime, every action is scrutinized. charges and countercharges
>flew when the throng of investigators tried to visit the accident site
>last Friday. The group never made it. Pacific Lumber initially blamed
>Earth First protesters, who have blockaded the road leading to the site.
>The attorney for Chain's family, Steve Schectman, blamed PL officials,
>saying they didn't want to walk up a steep slope to the accident site
>and that they stalled until there was too little daylight left.
>Meantime, Schectman was also upset that the logger who cut the tree
>that led to Chain's death was also invited to the investigation.
>All this bickering is probably more than almost anybody wants to know
>about the investigation. Nobody should care whether the group drove in,
>walked in, or was dropped in on a flying elephant. People just want to
>know what the investigators found once they got there.
>All this dialogue and cross-checking, though , is a good sign. The more
>that is made public, the less we'll have to hear later about coverups.
>There's only one way to put a halt to the talk - bend over backward to
>make sure it's not a whitewash. report all findings and answer all
>questions from the media. the more the public knows, the less
>speculation there will be.
>The Sheriff's department, to its credit, has been forthright. Schectman
>and PL's investigators aren't talking. Schectman would like to, but he
>says he cut a deal with PL in which he could investigate on the
>company's property only if he kept the information confidential.
>The sheriff and the district attorney had better be prepared to tel all
>- and then, unfortunately, let the lawsuits roll in.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644
Return to Home