SEATTLE — The city’s attorney issued a statement Thursday in response to the a report uncovering that a single Seattle police officer issued 80 percent of the tickets for marijuana use in public, often subtly deriding the law in his notes.
City Attorney Pete Holmes, who had been referred to as “Petey Holmes” by the offending officer, said I-502, the initiative legalize recreational pot,
should not be about fining people, but about getting people to stop smoking in crowded public places.
“In the wake of reports that a single Seattle police officer issued the bulk of tickets for smoking marijuana in public, I want to make sure that the public understands how this civil infraction came to be and why it must be applied fairly. I leave it to SPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Chief Kathleen O’Toole to sort out the facts about the officer’s conduct.
When I-502 passed voters were promised that public marijuana use would remain illegal, but as a civil infraction rather than a crime.
As an I-502 sponsor I also consider this my promise, which is why I supported writing the civil infraction into Seattle law.
This isn’t about fining people; it’s about getting people to stop smoking marijuana in public, especially in crowded areas and places where families and children congregate.
At the same time City Council wisely recognized that even civil infractions can be issued in a racially disproportionate manner, much like the War on Drugs itself.
That is why we have a reporting requirement to receive early indicators of any disproportionate enforcement.
And I’m absolutely concerned about the numbers in the report showing disproportionality.
I’m also concerned about inconsistent citywide enforcement with both warnings and tickets across the five precincts, which may also be an underlying factor in the first report.
I support enforcing the law, I support warning people before ticketing them and only issuing a ticket if the warning doesn’t work, and I support spreading enforcement efforts equitably across the City.”
The police department reassigned the officer Wednesday, and is currently investigating the case, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said.