Seattle officer investigated for busting too many pot smokers

SEATTLE -- A Seattle police officer is under official investigation for writing too many marijuana tickets.

In a Wednesday afternoon blotter post, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said she reassigned the officer to administrative duty after learning that he had written nearly 80 percent of all the marijuana tickets issued in Seattle between January 1 and June 30.

Sources confirm to KOMO News the officer's name is Randy Jokela.

Initiative 502, approved by state voters in 2012, included a civil fine for public consumption of marijuana.

The veteran officer, who was assigned to the West Precinct Bike Unit, personally wrote 66 of the 83 marijuana citations handed out this year, O'Toole said.

In addition to his reassignment, the officer is also the subject of an investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability, will "which review the officer's conduct and professionalism."

In many cases, O'Toole said the officer added notes on the tickets requesting the attention of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. Holmes, who has been a vocal supporter of marijuana legalization, is referred to in many of the tickets as "Petey Holmes."

In a statement released Wednesday night, Holmes said he's grateful that O'Toole is looking into the matter.

"I am personally very sorry that apparently a significant number of homeless individuals were inconvenienced by an officer's apparent attempt to get at me. But I'm really sorry that our citizens were unnecessarily inconvenienced," the statement reads.

In one ticket, the officer wrote that he found two people smoking marijuana and made them flip a coin to decide which person would be cited.

"(Suspect) lost the coin flip so he got the ticket while the other person walked. (suspect) was allowed to keep his pipe," the ticket reads.

In another ticket, the officer refers to Washington's voter-enacted changes to marijuana laws as "silly," according to O'Toole.

An analysis released last month found that homeless people and African American males were more likely to be ticketed for public pot use than anyone else.

About 36 percent of those cited were African Americans, who are 8 percent of Seattle's population according to the 2010 census. About 46 percent of those ticketed told police they lived in a homeless shelter, transitional housing or had addresses associated with homeless services.

"This officer's conduct came to my attention shortly after my department released its first semi-annual report on marijuana enforcement, as required by the City of Seattle. The report is designed to provide another level of oversight for marijuana enforcement in our city and flag any anomalies or outliers in enforcement," O'Toole wrote in the blotter post.

The post was briefly removed from the department's website, but an edited version was reposted a short time later.

O'Toole said she is releasing the information because she believes "sharing this information publicly is vital to ensuring transparency in the Seattle Police Department's law enforcement practices."
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