Seattle PD investigates cop who wrote 80 percent of pot tickets
The officer indicated he used a coin toss in one instance to decide who would be cited
By Steve Miletich and Jennifer Sullivan
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — Seattle police are investigating the conduct of a veteran officer who has written about 80 percent of the tickets for using marijuana in public this year, including some that referred to City Attorney Pete Holmes, a strong advocate of pot legalization, as "Petey Holmes."
In addition, the officer indicated he used a coin toss in one instance to decide who would be cited, new Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said in a statement posted on the department's news website Wednesday evening.
O'Toole did not name the officer, but he was identified by department sources as Randy Jokela, who joined the department in 1990. The officer wrote 66 of 83 tickets during the first half of the year, the statement said.
In some cases, the officer added a notation requesting the attention of "Petey Holmes," the statement said.
Holmes was a vocal supporter of Initiative 502, which legalized pot in 2012 after the ballot measure was approved by voters.
Tickets for public use of marijuana, which is barred under the law, are filed directly by officers in Seattle Municipal Court, not by Holmes' office. If a ticket is contested, an infractions attorney from his office becomes involved, according to office spokeswoman Kimberly Mills.
Holmes was a sponsor of a city ordinance passed last year that gave police the authority to write $27 tickets for using pot in public.
O'Toole said the matter came to the attention of department staff while reviewing data captured for its recently released first semiannual report on marijuana enforcement.
Jokela, 52, most recently has worked as a bicycle officer in the West Precinct, which includes the downtown business district, the Chinatown International District, Queen Anne, South Lake Union and other neighborhoods.
Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, did not name the officer, but said he met with him Wednesday.
"The involved officer is by far the hardest-working officer on this department I have known in my 20 years. Whether it was working in the Rainier Valley in a patrol car, or since he's been downtown on bikes, nobody can hold a fiddle to his work ethic. However, I cannot defend the comments that he allegedly made on the backs of the tickets."
Jokela was named co-officer of the year for the West Precinct in 2005.
In addition to the coin flip, the officer referred on one ticket to the voter-enacted changes in marijuana laws as "silly," O'Toole's statement said.
The matter has been referred to the Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability, which conducts internal investigations.
Jokela has been reassigned to duties other than patrol while the investigation is conducted.
"Please know that officers who perform professional and constitutional police service and enforcement will always have my full support," O'Toole's statement said.
Holmes, reached Wednesday night, said he was grateful O'Toole is looking into the matter. "The comments and their propriety speak for themselves. This is an indication of the state of discipline that she has inherited."
The marijuana-enforcement report, delivered July 23 to the City Council, found that 99 percent of all public-use tickets were issued for infractions in the West Precinct, primarily in Victor Steinbrueck Park, Westlake Park, Occidental Park and downtown streets.
The report referred to 82 tickets issued in the first half of the year, one fewer than the number cited by O'Toole.
Just 6 percent of the fines have been paid, according to police.
Blacks were disproportionately cited, with 37 percent of the tickets, the report said.
Blacks account for 8 percent of the Seattle population, according to 2010 census figures; 50 percent of the tickets went to whites, who represent 70 percent of city residents.
Overall, women accounted for 11 percent of the citations; and 41 percent of all people who received tickets lived in low-income housing, shelters, motels, or vacant lots.
People cited ranged in age from 18 to 77, according to police.
Holmes apologized to the homeless people he said were cited in an attempt to get at him.
Police will continue to collect data through 2015 as required by the council.
The number of citations does not indicate aggressive enforcement, a police spokesman said last week, noting that Initiative 75, passed by voters in 2003, makes enforcing possession violations for small amounts of pot the lowest priority.
In making public consumption an infraction, the council action called for police to give warnings whenever possible before issuing fines.
Copyright 2014 The Seattle Times
McClatchy-Tribune News Service